Posts Tagged ‘National Gallery’

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 …


Exhibition of the Year

In Awards, Museums on December 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

What has been your favourite museum/gallery exhibition of 2010? Here are my top four…

Runners up:

Henry Moore (Tate Britain, London) – This beautiful show brought together a huge range of Moore’s work into one space – not an easy task when there are some enormous sculptures needing to be displayed alongside incredibly detailed drawings. But I hugely appreciated the sensitive juxtaposition of both large and small sculpted objects along with his moving drawings of the lives of miners and people living in the London Underground in the Second World War. The display even persuaded me to invest in the catalogue, which is almost unheard of.

The Science of Painting (National Gallery, London) – This exhibition was a real diversion for the gallery in terms of their temporary displays. It unpacked the conservation stories behind some of the paintings in the Gallery in an engaging way, explaining complex terminology and really making visitors look at the pictures. The lively and well-structured interpretation meant that viewing the exhibition was effortless and I even saw someone using the printed glossary leaflet next door in the NPG to look up an art term she didn’t understand in one of their labels! It’s a shame there’s no online legacy for the project. Nothing, not even a page on their website for me to direct you to. They lose out.

Haus der Musik (Vienna) – This interactive exploration of the nature of sound – with lots of toys and musical interactive to play with – is followed by an explanation of Vienna’s significance in the history of Western music. The culmination is a chance to get up on the rostrum and conduct the Vienna Phil!

And the winner is…

Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes (V&A, London) – There was a good chance I was always going to love this exhibition. I remember getting excited about seeing it when it was first announced a few years ago. But because I’m interested in the subject matter it did make me somewhat nervous going in. Would it be the same as all the other V&A exhibitions? (I like them, but I rarely rave about them.) Would it match my expectations?

Wow, it did. And more. It’s a really well-told story about the development of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes project. Although not that many objects belonging to him remain, the V&A have managed to bring out some of the back story of the man – his personality, his foibles, his peculiarities.

While the exhibition does tend to stick to the V&A’s usual interpretive format of ‘storytelling –> pretty dresses –> storytelling –> pretty dresses’ (I’ve ranted before about how I’d prefer to see costume and fashion used as storytelling devices, rather than illustrative of the point they’re trying to make) it manages to present a strong and – I think – captivating story through art, posters, design, personal belongings and fashion. I finished each section with the same question – what happened next?!

The star of the show – and indeed the year, for me – was the ‘staging’ of the V&A’s largest object in a dramatic audio-visual presentation (by Newangle). That has to be one of the finest combination of sound and images I’ve seen in 2010. I won’t ruin the surprise, but do go and see it.

You’ll have to hurry though as the exhibition closes on 9 January.

The newly inaugurated Interpretive Catastrophe of the Year award goes to RMS Titanic Inc. They clearly have some great objects in their ‘collection’ and they’ve put on a very showy display at the O2, but they completely forgot to tell a story in their exhibition about the ship. Boo – that’s £15 I won’t get back.

Other awards already announced this year are:

iPhone app of the Year
Museum object of the Year
London terminus of the Year

More to follow before Christmas…

Lady Jane at the National Gallery

In Museums on April 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I went today to see the current exhibition in the Sainsbury Wing at the National GalleryPainting History: Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey. As per norm, it’s an impeccably turned out exhibitions with sensitive lighting and a real attention to detail. In fact I was particularly impressed with the deisgn concept of a truly theatrical space with luscious curtains and dark wooden seating.

The show takes as its starting point the painting of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche, which normally hangs in Room 41 (one of my favourites in the NG). Although we don’t meet the picture of Lady Jane on her way to be executed until the fourth room of the display, we are introduced to the themes and background to the painting’s conception in advance, helping to build some tension and expectation.

In the most part the text is informative and flows nicely (apart from the occasional panel or label) and tells a story as we move through the space. But, again as per norm, the text is far too small even for me. For some reason the NG have stopped handing out free guides to the exhibition with all or some of the exhibition copy – that would’ve been nice.

But other than that, I now see a picture I’ve never really contemplated all that much before in a new light, which is a real success for an exhibition, I reckon.

It’s part of what is becoming known as a ‘dossier exhibition’ which is when museums or galleries take pieces from their collection and explode all the art history they can into one exhibition, focussed on a single work. There are plenty of loans-in to this exhibition, but using a NG centrepiece manages to keep the costs down in a recession. Clever thinking.

It’s open until 23 May. Drop me a line if you’ve also seen it. I’d love to hear what you think.

Getting to grips with multimedia

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2009 at 10:05 am

I’ve been working with the British Museum of late, writing their new multimedia guide to the permanent collection – it’s like a traditional museum audio-guide, but it has a screen as well so you can show images and have visitors click on little interactives and games. It’s been great fun, but a bit of a learning curve for me as I was previously used to writing pure audio. I find that the more gudies I take, the better my writing becomes. I’ve really enjoyed making little interactives – click on the screen to find out more about ……

Recently I’ve taken some good tours. The Imperial War Museum multimedia tour is great and has loads of content on there for families especially. And the tour for the Picasso exhibition at the National Gallery was brilliant – it really got me looking closely at the paintings and comaring them to works in other museums being shown to me on my screen. One of the golden rules of audio writing for museums is don’t write about what you can’t see, but with this you can!

I’m now working on a tour of the Parthenon galleries at the British Museum for visually impaired visitors, which is a real challenge, but great fun. I’m having to come up with as many different ways of saying – the object infront of you is made of pale grey marble. It all goes live in December, once it’s been translated into nine languages!