Rose Bullock of Alma, Ont., and Mason Misener of Holstein, Ont., both 17, view a portrait of Victoria Kynaston by Allan Ramsay at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery Monday. It was the last day for the gallery’s Masterworks of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery exhibition that’s attracted about 18,000 viewers in its four months in Sarnia. (Tyler Kula, The Observer)

After a nearly 20-week stint in Sarnia, attracting some 18,000 people, Lord Beaverbrook’s Masterworks collection is bidding farewell to the city.

The 75-piece exhibition from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery collection, featuring masterpieces by Thomas Gainsborough, Salvador Dali, Lucien Freud and J.M.W. Turner, among others, was shown for the last time Monday at Sarnia-Lambton’s Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery (JNAAG).

Named for collector Sir William Maxwell Aitken, also known as Lord Beaverbrook, the exhibition will now travel to a new gallery, though where exactly hasn’t been officially announced, said JNAAG curator Lisa Daniels.

But the free-admission exhibition’s stamp on Sarnia-Lambton during its time here has been palpable, she said.

“Making it possible for the citizens of Lambton County to experience art by some of the world’s masters (some for the first time) right here at home, for an extended period of time, and that it was accessible for everyone, was something that our staff and volunteers saw the value of every day,” she said in a written statement.

Not only did the Beaverbrook exhibition raise the profile of the community and add an influx of tourists, she said, it instilled pride in Sarnia-Lambton and the gallery for its cultural significance.

“The exhibition was a success on all levels,” she said.

The final visitor count still needs to be tallied, she said, but more than 1,500 people alone visited the exhibition in its last week.

It was initially scheduled to close Feb. 7, but was extended due to popular demand.

A full report on the cost to host the exhibition, as well as its economic and social impact, is coming to Lambton County Council in April, Daniels said.

Bright’s Grove sisters Morgan, 16, and Perrin Langille, 11, visiting with their family, were among the dozens early through the doors to take in the exhibition on its final day.

For Perrin, who’d already come once with her class from Cathcart Boulevard school, Salvador Dali’s Santiago El Grande was the main attraction.

Ditto, said her sister.

“I’ve heard there’s a lot of other paintings around here that are quite interesting and really old,” Morgan said.

“I’m excited to see the older ones.”

David Struthers and Lisa Evers were also touring the collection, inspired to take it all in after reading writeups about the exhibition’s prestige.

“They’re impressive,” said Evers, about what she’d seen so far.

Others, in online survey comments to the gallery, praised the collection as “truly amazing,” “exceptional,” and “world class.”

The gallery’s doors are expected to be closed for the next two and a half weeks as the Beaverbook exhibition is packed up and shipped out, Daniels said, noting doors will still open weekly 1-3 p.m. for Family Sunday workshops.

Parts of the gallery are slated to reopen for March exhibitions, and the full gallery is set to reopen April 1 with paintings by Plympton-Wyoming artist Gary Spearin, and a sculpture installation by Quebec artist Diane Landry.

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