(Above) Lucian Freud, Woman's Head With Yellow Background (1963), will be one of the masterpieces brought to At the Edge by Touchstones Rochdale. Picture courtesy the gallery, © the artist
Exhibition: At the Edge – British Art 1950-2000, Touchstones, Rochdale, September 26 2009 – January 3 2010, then Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, January 16 – March 13; Gallery Oldham, Oldham, April 17 – July 17; Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium, Bolton, July 31 – October 30
An exploration of contemporary British art from different curatorial perspectives, At the Edge is the sequel to the initial collaboration between this quartet of respected North-West museums – Touchstones in Rochdale, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, Bolton Museum, Aquarium and Archive and Gallery Oldham.
Laura Ford, Elephant Boy (1998), is from Gallery Oldham's collection. Picture courtesy the gallery, © the artist
The award-winning Creative Tension exhibition, which toured in 2006, considered major movements such as surrealism, impressionism and abstract art between 1900 and 1950.
At the Edge picks up where this left off with a diverse range of work from all four galleries, including highlights from the likes of Henry Moore, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Andy Goldsworthy and Jacob Epstein in a multi-disciplinary show.
Maggi Hambling, July Sunrise, Orwell Estuary No 2 (1985), from the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Picture courtesy the gallery, © the artist
From striking sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi to surreal pieces by Laura Ford and incendiary feminist work by Helen Chadwick, the institutions often faced opposition and disapproval during the critical process of assembling these groundbreaking collections. The project aims to provoke discussion of these curatorial challenges and spark debate on the future of galleries.
It's organised as part of the centenary year of The Contemporary Art Society, whose mission is to buy important art and donate it to museums and galleries. They're determined to use the anniversary to strengthen their efforts to encourage exhibitions outside of London.
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Naked Head (1978), from Bolton Museum and Archive Service. Picture courtesy the gallery, © the artist
"Seventy percent of our membership has been based in London and a lot of our programming has as well, but I'm really interested in us being much more of a national organisation," says Chairman Paul Hobson.
"London's a very congested, competitive, over-produced marketplace and there's a lot more potential if you go to these under-developed markets.”
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is also lending support to the exhibition, which opens at the Grade II-listed Carnegie library building in Rochdale, who hold more than 1,500 oil paintings, watercolours, prints and drawings.
It proceeds to Preston's Harris Museum and Art Gallery, a Grade I-listed fine and decorative art centre, for a three-month stint. It will then go on show at the historic Bolton Museum, followed by the award-winning new Gallery Oldham.