Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

Exhibition of the Year 2012

In Awards, Museums on December 31, 2012 at 11:43 am

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 …


Museum of the Year 2012

In Awards on December 25, 2012 at 9:22 am

Now for my favourite annual award – the best museum I’ve visited for the first time in the preceding twelve months.

This year I travelled to the Dordogne region of France for a wedding and went to some of the prehistoric cave systems, with the paintings which have lasted for thousands – even tens of thousands of years. The durability of these paintings is astonishing, but I’m afraid the museums and guided tours there that we experienced are a bit shabby, so they won’t be making it into my final list.

Certainly the most eye-opening trip of the year – and possibly the decade – was our visit to North Korea in April. Again, is doesn’t seem like museology has reached Pyongyang as the few museums we visited weren’t up to much. But in the world’s most secretive state where they can’t afford to feed their people, I’ll let them off some poorly interpreted objects.
Instead, my three favourite museums this year are all chosen for the quality of the visit, as well as the museums themselves.

2012 Runner up:
The new Museum of Liverpool is a striking building, on the river and prominently displayed next to the city’s three graces.

In places this museum could be described as design over content – the interpretation of objects is much more obvious than the objects themselves – but that’s not to say it’s bad. Quite the opposite – they have created a multi-layered, multi-dimensional museum experience which is easy to access and understand. And it does was every local museum strive to do, yet rarely achieves – it celebrated its locality.

This is a truly scouse experience for a proud city and well worth a visit.

2012 winner:
My favourite museum this year is the Musee de la chasse et de la nature (the Museum of hunting and nature) in Paris.

Whether you’re a fan of blood sports or a card-carrying member of the anti-hunt lobby, there is something for you in this carefully curated and beautifully constructed installation museum in the heart of the Marais. Rather than simply telling a story of man’s interaction with nature and how he has killed plenty of things over the years, this museum takes a creative look at the interaction between animal and human. Taxidermy is displayed tastefully and humourously. Objects which may inflict pain are juxtaposed with modern art. And there’s a massive stuffed bear, which nobody can complain about.

Look out for the room of dogs, the owl room and the space devoted to hunting where the animals dominate and take precedence over the guns.

Very clever.

Comedy fake celebrity Tweeter of the year

In Awards on December 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

Of the 500 million registered users of twitter, about 400 million of them must be spoofs – people imitating famous celebrities and mocking them with caustic comedy in under 140 characters. There are fake Pippa Middletons, fake Barack Obamas and even fake Popes.

There are, of course, a lot to choose from, but here are my three favourites from this year.

@KatieWeasel has made this year’s X-Factor bearable to watch, in parts, thanks to her bitchy comments, imitating the exuberant and distinctive (and slightly bonkers) 2010 contestant Katie Waissel. And so we award her third place.

Two years ago, nobody had heard of the phrase ‘gin o’clock’, but thanks to second place @Queen_UK it’s now everywhere. The writer who parodies her  majesty has figured out not only how to write funny tweets, but also how to turn it into a business, having sold thousands of copies of his books detailing how HMQ really thinks.

But the top spot has to go to the irregular – but always hilarious – tweets of @desree_life who pokes fun at celebrities across the board using her own brand of scanning poetry, inspired by Des’ree’s 1998 song Life.

For example her tweet on the day the Leveson enquiry report was released:

“It has been quite a long wait.
Now we’ll learn the media’s fate.
Will they still self regulate?
Just like Warren G and Nate”

NB: it’s not all clean, so watch out.

More awards to come on Christmas Day …

YouTube video of the year

In Awards on December 19, 2012 at 11:30 am

It’s the time of year when awards abound – mostly just for money-making opportunities and a chance to wear a rented tuxedo. Once again, I shall be celebrating the end of the year with a spectacular and glamorous ceremony at which my annual awards will be offered up to the nation.

And for the first instalment, I will be awarding Youtube video of the year.

You might expect PSY’s Gangnam Style or one of its many parodies to make an appearance in the line up, and quite rightly no award for Internet videos this year can be complete without mentioning it, but the judges felt that it has had quite enough exposure, thank you, and will be overlooked in the final placing.

In third place comes the viral sensation captured of Kim Wilde singing on a train on her way home from a Christmas party. She’s had a drink a two, but she can still sing Kids in America to people on the train.

The next award goes to American TV cook Paula Deen. This video of her deepfrying a piece of cheesecake has been online for a while, but I only came across it this year. Not entirely sure how she can get away with this, but it does look amazing. Keep an eye out for the ‘vegetable’ she adds at the end.

First place goes to my absolute favourite of the year when Australian PM Julia Gillard fell over on a visit to India. I wish her no harm – in fact I quite respect her – but this is just hilarious and I can watch her face-planting repeatedly without stopping laughing.

More awards to come…