It’s time for the much coveted (actually not at all coveted) temporary exhibition of the year award.
I think it’s important that we take time to celebrate museums and exhibitions off the beaten track – the nationals and the large independent museums in the UK get the lion’s share of the funding and also the majority of the press attention. So it’s important to make sure that places which aren’t in the limelight as much get their fair share of the glory.
But that said, I’ve got to be honest when it comes to my favourite exhibitions of the last year and I’m afraid my top three were all large, expensive shows in national museums in London. What can you do?
Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, National Gallery
The NG asked Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger (with The Royal Ballet) to respond to three Titian paintings – Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and the recently acquired Diana and Callisto – which depict stories from Ovid’s epic poem ‘Metamorphoses’. The three paintings, displayed in the middle of the exhibition space, were brought together on display for the first time since the 1700s.
It’s brave of the National to bring contemporary art to their audience, but it really worked as a project and as an exhibition piece.
Shakespeare: staging the world, British Museum
Much more than an exhibition about Shakespeare and much more than an exhibition about the world he lived in, this display brought together extracts from the texts we all know (and plenty we don’t!) with real objects of all shapes and sizes to create a seamless narrative. I left feeling like I understood Shakespeare’s London and his world much better.
Plus, like the NG they worked in collaboration with a performance art organisation – the Royal Shakespeare Company – to create some new interpretations of classic Shakespeare soliloquies. Great stuff.
Hollywood Costume, V&A
What a show-stopper. From the moment you walk in the door, it’s a visual treat.
I know it’s a bit cliché to like this exhibition as everyone is talking about it. But that’s because it’s just so brilliant.
I tend to get a bit tired in V&A exhibitions as they are often huge – and the last room tends to have some dresses in it, displayed in a glass box. Gone are the frocks. Gone are the display cases – and here are dozens – perhaps hundreds?? – of costumes from movies that we all know and love on open display.
The V&A have pushed the boat out interpretively as well – the exhibition has its own soundtrack and there are some impressive interpretive techniques that I will certainly be pinching to put in other exhibitions before very long.
I won’t give the whole game away as the exhibition is still open – until 27 January. Go see.
Happy New Year all.
Here’s to another year of great exhibitions in 2013 …