A unique and historic partnership was celebrated yesterday as part of Southampton’s City of Culture 2025 bid.

Dozens of guests attended the launch of a new exhibition at the Southampton City Art Gallery for the launch of a new exhibition which opens today in a collaboration with the National Gallery.

The event also marked the reopening of the gallery after lockdown.

The exhibition includes the loan of priceless works by Claude Monet and Thomas Gainsborough and represents a world class collection.

The leader of Southampton City Council, Cllr Dan Fitzhenry said the long-standing and historic partnership with the National Gallery was an outstanding example of collaboration.

"This is all about participation, people, aspirations, arts and culture and we can build on that. Culture is a stepping stone to understanding each other."

He added: "We have an incredible city of arts and heritage assets and bidding for UK City of Culture is about enriching lives, growing and developing opportunity and showcasing our great city on the world stage.

The Director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi described the new exhibition, 'Creating a National Collection,' as "the most recent chapter in a long lasting and fruitful relationship, a special relationship."

The National Gallery has just reopened after five months.

"These have been unprecedented time and it has been sad to be in galleries with no people in them," he said.

"But we are absolutely delighted to celebrate this moment in our two histories."

City of Culture Bid Director, Claire Whittaker said the exhibition and collaboration summed up "the ambition of this city."

She added: "Southampton is really coming together to support this bid. And we think it's time for UK City of Culture to come to this part of the world."

The partnership between the two galleries has been in existence for decades.

Southampton has an internationally fine art collection, one of the most renowned outside London. There are more than 5,000 works.

The exhibition runs until September 4.