THE opening of Bury’s new sculpture centre has been hailed as one of the most “momentous occasions” in more than a century of exhibition history at the town’s Art Museum.

The comments came in a speech by the Mayor of Bury, Cllr Sharon Briggs, who carried out the opening ceremony last Friday.

Among the VIPs who attended the event, which coincided with the borough’s fourth Text Festival, were guest speakers Greville Worthington, chairman of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and Brian Ashley, the Arts Council’s national director for libraries.

Guests were entertained by a quartet from Chetham’s School of Music.

The new sculpture centre, in Bury Library, covers 306 square metres. As part of the drive for culture to support the local economy, the centre will host a number of international festivals and a conference in 2014, aimed at bringing the best in international art to local audiences and cultural tourists.

More than 60 international artists will take part in the Text Festival between now and July, including an exhibition by internationally renowned artist Lawrence Weiner. It centres on contemporary language art incorporating poetry, text art, sound and media text, and live art.

Cllr Briggs told the gathering: “Building on Bury’s best international practice, the new space will showcase global contemporary sculpture for local audiences and visitors interested in the latest developments in art.

“The launch of Bury sculpture centre is one of the most momentous occasions in more than 100 years of exhibition history at Bury Art Museum.

“This evening is the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate this achievement.”

Mr Worthington said: “There is an established network of sculpture across the north of England, including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield, and the Henry Moore Foundation, Leeds.

“It is fantastic that the new Bury sculpture centre is now a part of that and to open with a show by such an important artist as Lawrence Weiner is an achievement for the team.”