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Ulster University, National Museums NI and Belfast City Council have joined forces for the third year in a row to deliver ‘Art Unwrapped’. The project takes an iconic work from the Ulster Museum’s collection, and gives it pride of place in the heart of the city and as a gift to its citizens for the Christmas period.

This year, Art Unwrapped will present ‘St. Matthew and the Angel’ by Jan van Bijlert (1597-1671), a much-loved piece from the national collection and one of his most famous paintings. The painting will be displayed in the gallery in Ulster University’s Belfast campus but due to the current pandemic the event will be a little different his year as it moves online. The public will view the exhibition online with bespoke video tours. The exhibition will be available on the University’s website from 8th December to 31st January.

Just like previous years, Ulster University Belfast School of Art students have prepared guided tours exploring the painting and its themes. These have all been recorded and will be available online to provide a guided introduction to the work to members of the public. There will be several different student-led virtual tours allowing viewers to experience different explorations of this magnificent art piece. In addition to the tours, Poet Padraig Regan will creating a poetic piece inspired by the painting.

School visits and workshops will also be moving online. Ulster University art students will be facilitating online tours and a range of narrated, interactive workshops specifically designed for pupils and teachers. Thanks to the virtual nature of the exhibition, Art Unwrapped is now open to 800 schools.

Professor Raffaella Folli, Provost of Ulster University’s Belfast campus commented:

“We are delighted to host ‘Art Unwrapped’ for the third year running. The partnership with Belfast City Council and National Museums NI represents a major civic project for Ulster University as we engage with the local community and schools to showcase the power of art and inspire the next generation of artists.

“This year’s ‘Art Unwrapped’ is a much needed Christmas gift to the City of Belfast and as we move online it becomes a gift from Belfast to wider regions. Our contribution centres around our fine arts students who have developed interpretive tours of the painting around a number of different themes, offering us a private, personal and yet informed analysis of this magnificent scene of heavenly support and inspiration.”

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Frank McCoubrey said:

“Belfast City Council is delighted to support Art Unwrapped for the third time.

“It’s been a challenging year for culture and arts but I’ve been encouraged to see how the sector has adapted and found new and innovative ways to provide cultural experiences. This year’s Art Unwrapped online offering will make the project even more accessible to new audiences.

“The school outreach element also encourages young people to explore and learn about visual arts, a key theme in our ten year cultural strategy A City Imagining.”

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI, said:

“National Museums NI is delighted to collaborate once again with Ulster University and Belfast City Council on ‘Art Unwrapped’.  It is fantastic to be able to loan this exquisite painting ‘St. Matthew and the Angel’ by Jan van Bijlert, from our extensive art collection, and for it to be enjoyed online – by even more people - as part of this year’s initiative.  Opening up access to the national collections in new and different ways, particularly in this hugely challenging year, and to inspire curiosity is so important to us and this is a wonderful example of that.”

To book your place please visit: