Mining Art Gallery
The intimate and awe-inspiring art collection gives a truly unique insight into the lives and souls of coal miners.
Step into another world to see depictions of life in the coal mines, but also the communities that grew around them.
Culture, life, and community sprung out from mining in the North East; it’s our history, it’s our character, and it’s who we are. These inspiring works showcase the resilience and courage of those who lived and worked in the mines, and give an incredible perspective on how human creativity and spirit can shine even in the darkest places.
Created in partnership with Dr Robert McManners OBE and Gillian Wales, a visit to the gallery takes you on an exploration of the art, culture, and context of the mining industry and its place in the history of County Durham.
Len Tabner: Elements of Darkness
This new exhibition brings together a selection of Len Tabner’s drawings and paintings of Boulby Potash Mine on the North Yorkshire coast – the deepest mine in Britain. Len explored the unfamiliar underground world of the miner in the early 1980s, drawing and painting in situ in the mine.
Things to see and do
- The Mining Art Gallery provides a permanent home for the renowned Gemini Collection of Mining Art, which includes more than 420 works by prominent local artists such as Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish.
- Through original artefacts and artworks the downstairs rooms portray the harshness of life underground, whilst a series of atmospheric videos, including original footage, show what life was really like for miners and their families.
- Upstairs you can uncover the lighter times the miners and their families shared above ground, with a rolling programme of exhibitions throughout the year.
- If you're visiting during school holidays with children of any age, make sure you pop in and explore some of the games and pastimes enjoyed by mining families.
Between the First and Second World Wars, charitable organisations such as the Workers Educational Association and the Settlement movement began to establish groups in struggling local communities. In places such as County Durham, where a third of the working population were miners, there was an explosion of mining art.
The distinguished Gemini Collection, featuring 420 works by mining artists, is now in its permanent home at The Mining Gallery. Having opening in 2017, the Gallery provides an artistic record of an industry and a memorial to a former way of life. The work on display showcases the skill and creativity of these labourers and celebrates the achievements of the mining artists as a vital aspect of coalfield heritage.
Ted Holloway, Testing for Gas, 1956.
Oil on canvas, 59 x 90.5cm
© Gemini Collection.
Tom Lamb, Having a Nap, 2006
Oil on canvas, 49.4 x 59.2cm
© Gemini Collection, courtesy of The Auckland Project / The Zurbarán Trust / Margaret Lamb
Robert Olley, The Last Drop, 2007
Oil on canvas, 121 x 89.5cm
© Gemini Collection, courtesy of The Auckland Project / The Zurbarán Trust / Robert Olley
Ted Holloway, Miners' Heads, 1958
Boot polish and wax on board, 39 x 29cm
© Gemini Collection, courtesy of The Auckland Project / The Zurbarán Trust
The attractions of the Auckland Project are rooted in the town's local history, passion and might, we are simply developing on what is already here – the fantastic legacy of the Prince Bishops. Over the last ten years we have been investing in the town's heritage and building community programmes.
Every visit to The Mining Gallery, or another one of our seven attractions, helps us to ensure that the town's future is as magnificent and vibrant as its past.
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‘Absolutely loved our visit to the Mining Art Gallery. As always, staff are welcoming, chatty and knowledgeable. Some beautiful pieces of art work. And as always, keeps you on your toes by having permanent and rolling exhibitions.' – Nix
‘The art in this gallery really gives a clear picture of what mining life was like in the past, and what a hard life it was for the men and boys. But it also shows a camaraderie that existed through them having shared the terrible conditions and long hours down the pit.' – Dawn
‘What an unexpected little gem. I visited due to my family history with mining, but this is really for everyone. Very reasonably priced, and very engaging volunteers – particularly an 85 year old former miner. The paintings are great, they show the hardship of the miners themselves and their families, but also the sense of community. Well worth a visit.' – Clara