The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2015 > Julian Opie: Collected Works

Julian Opie: Collected Works

25 October 2014 - 22 February 2015

One of the UK’s leading contemporary artists, Opie exploded onto the British art scene in the 1980s; his easily recognisable style characterised by minimalist line portraits and animated walking figures.


Caterina Dancing 09 (Red), Julian Opie, Silkscreen on Painted Wood, 2010

Throughout his own prolific career Opie has amassed art from the past including 17th and 18th century British portraiture by artists such as Joshua Reynolds and George Romney, together with Egyptian sculpture from the ancient world. This exhibition showcased his own works alongside pieces from his private collection, examining the relationship between the two.


Maria in the Garden, Julian Opie, Inkjet on Canvas with Brass Frame, 2009

Such juxtaposition is revealing in many ways, in particular throwing light on the inspiration for Opie’s practise as an artist, but also in revealing the complexity within the nature of portraiture: what it means, how it is achieved and how it’s changed throughout the history of art.


Christof Willibald Gluck (1714-1787), Studio of Jean Antoine Houdon, Terracotta, 1775

Works in a variety of media were on display including paintings, prints, LEDs and video as well as more recent experiments in mosaic and sculpture, shown together with pieces ranging from an ancient Egyptian funerary mask to an arresting ‘warts and all’ Houdon bust of 18th century composer Cristoph Gluck complete with smallpox scarring. 



Egyptian Funerary Mask, Unknown Artist, Painted Plaster, Late Ptolemaic Period

Opie has exhibited extensively around the world during the past 30 years and now for the first time we have an opportunity to see his work within the context of his collection, offering a fascinating insight into his oeuvre and his collecting instinct. His work also forms part of the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate in London, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, MoMa. He has also completed public commissions in major cities around the globe.


Reed 1, Julian Opie, Paint on Resin (Corian Base), 2012 

The exhibition was organised by the Holburne Museum.

Related Events

Cornelius Johnson’s Portrait of Peter Courthope

11 February 2015, 2.30, £11.00 Adult, £10.00 Concession/ Friend of The Bowes Museum
Join Professor Karen Hearn to learn about one of Julian Opie’s favourite painters, Cornelius Johnson, who portrayed many famous British figures including Charles I. 

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.