Works by Hirst and Hockney among major loans revealed for Which Way North at the Great North Museum

14 May 2018

"From art and design to ground-breaking innovations, we hope there’s something in our show to inspire everyone"

A Damien Hirst sculpture comprising a tiger shark suspended in a formaldehyde solution in a large metal and glass case
Image: Damien Hirst, Heaven, 2008-2009. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2018

This summer, Newcastle University’s Great North Museum will be home to hundreds of star objects on loan from the UK’s leading collections, it has been revealed.

As part of Great Exhibition of the North (22 June – 9 September), the museum will present Which Way North, a special exhibition throughout the building exploring the heart and soul of Northern England through stories of its pioneering innovators, designers and artists.

With content conceived by guest curator Gráinne Sweeney, Which Way North has been produced by the Great North Museum team and will feature 250 items borrowed from more than 100 lenders. Star attractions announced today include:

  • Damien Hirst’s Heaven, 2008-2009, on loan from Damien Hirst / Science Ltd.
  • A rare miniature book created by Charlotte Brontë, from the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
  • Dame Vivienne Westwood’s pirate ensemble, from the V&A Museum.
  • David Hockney’s Le Parc des Sources, Vichy, 1970, from Chatsworth House.
  • John Harrison’s marine timekeeper H4, from Royal Museums Greenwich.
  • The sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who, designed by Dan Walker and used by Matt Smith’s Doctor, from BBC Studios.

These new highlights join major loans already announced, such as Helen Sharman’s space suit, the last piano played by John Lennon and George Stubbs’ iconic painting Whistlejacket.

Caroline McDonald, manager at the Great North Museum, said:

“We’re counting down the days to 22 June when Great Exhibition of the North kicks off and visitors can see these important loans in NewcastleGateshead. From art and design to ground-breaking innovations, we hope there’s something in our show to inspire everyone.

“Bringing together 250 objects from over 100 lenders is amazing for the museum. Many thanks to National Lottery players; our Heritage Lottery Fund grant has made it all possible.”

Professor Eric Cross, dean of cultural affairs at Newcastle University, said:

“The Great North Museum is going to play host to some amazing pieces of art, design and artefacts which celebrate the very best of the North. Visitors will also be able to experience the museum as they've never seen it before. 

“We are thrilled Which Way North will feature Newcastle University’s very own Richard Hamilton who taught Fine Art here and has been described as the 'father' of Pop Art. It’s also going to include inspirational pieces such as Helen Sharman’s space suit. We can’t wait to see it all come together and look forward to welcoming visitors to discover more about how innovation and creativity in the North shaped the world in which we live today.”

Which Way North takes its inspiration from the Duchess of Newcastle’s 1666 novel The Blazing World, thought to be one of the earliest works of science fiction. It describes a fantastic realm in which skilled navigators of sea and sky embrace a world of possibilities beyond their own. Visitors to the exhibition will find a 1668 edition of The Blazing World at their starting point, as well as other items they might need for an adventure, including the eleventh Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and a fan showing a map of the North from 1778.

Actor Matt Smith in character as Doctor Who, looking towards his sonic screwdriver
Image: Matt Smith as Doctor Who. Sonic screwdriver designed by Dan Walker © BBC Studios

From thereon in, the exhibition journeys through a number of themed interventions in which bold new displays burst through the exisiting museum galleries.

To the Moon and Back is the theme in the Hadrian’s Wall gallery, taking Helen Sharman’s space suit as the lead for an exploration of the stars, the seas and Northern pioneers. Other highlights here include John Harrison’s prizewinning H4 timekeeper and an original watercolour illustration by Anita Jeram from the classic children’s book Guess How Much I Love You.

Buried Treasures: In an Octopus’s Garden is the theme for the Fossil Stories gallery. Here, an intimate collection of hidden gems and shiny trinkets sits alongside the museum’s imposing replica T. rex skeleton. Highlights in this space include a pirate costume designed by Dame Vivienne Westwood and a replica of physicist Peter Higgs’ Nobel Prize medal.

Moving upstairs, Human Machine Motion is the theme in the Special Exhibitions hall. An installation of Richard Hamilton’s artwork Man, Machine and Motion is the inspiration here for a celebration of Northern flights of fancy, engineering and nature in motion. Other must-see attractions include George Stubbs’ famous horse portrait Whistlejacket and a full-size replica of Sir George Cayley’s glider.

Spanning the Ancient Egypt and Natural Northumbria galleries, This Kingdom Called Home – sponsored by Home Group – is an emporium dedicated to Northern achievements that have influenced the way we live. Star loans here include David Hockney’s large-scale painting Le Parc des Sources, Vichy and a rare miniature book created by 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë. The space also features a model of Gateshead’s forthcoming ‘Innovation Village’. The aim of the project, led by Home Group, is to build a variety of properties using new modular methods of construction and to draw lessons that could help solve the UK’s housing crisis.

Visitors will have the opportunity to contemplate Damien Hirst’s Heaven in a bespoke ‘white cube’ space on the museum’s ground floor. The installation comprises a shark suspended in formaldehyde solution.

Which Way North at the Great North Museum is a free exhibition made possible by National Lottery players, with funding awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum is closed to visitors from 21 May – 21 June (inclusive) while the exhibition is installed. An extensive programme of public events supporting the exhibition will be announced in the coming weeks.

Great North Museum is one of three hub venues for the summer’s Great Exhibition of the North, alongside BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sage Gateshead. Great Exhibition of the North will open to the public at 1pm on Friday 22 June, with a ticketed opening event taking place on the NewcastleGateshead quayside later that evening. For more information on Great Exhibition of the North please visit:

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