Posts Tagged ‘V&A’

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 Gallery Interpretation and Material Culture

In new content, what i'm reading on May 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Hot on the heels of the new Museum [Insider] book, I’ve published again, just a week later! And just like the last one, this is just as niche and almost as costly.

I have a paper published in a new book called Museum Gallery Interpretation and Material Culture, published by Routledge. The book is an edited version of a conference I spoke at a few years ago with my colleagues David Francis and Claire Edwards from the British Museum. The three of us wrote our paper up into a chapter of the book, which appears alongside other people, including museum interpretation guru George Hein, who we got to share a stage with during a Q&A at the conference – a definite career highlight so far!

Our paper discusses how museums might create an object-centred interpretive approach to interpretation and how that is balanced with a more traditional story-led approach. We had undertaken some research at the British Museum and reported our findings here.

It’s quite a wide-ranging book:

1. Introduction . Juliette Fritsch

Part I: Situating Interpretation in the Museum Context
2. “The Museum as a Social Instrument”: A Democratic Conception of Museum Education. George E. Hein
3. Invoking the Muse: The Purposes and Processes of Communicative Action in Museums. Paulette M. McManus
4. Interpretation and the Art Museum: Between the Familiar and the Unfamiliar. Cheryl Meszaros, eds. Jennifer J Carter, Twyla Gibson

Part II: The Role of Interpretation in Art Galleries
5. Towards Some Cartographic Understandings of Art Interpretation in Museums. Christopher Whitehead
6. Art for Whose Sake? Sue Latimer
7. The Seeing Eye: The Seeing “I”. Sylvia Lahav

8. Part III: How Can We Define the Role of Language in Museum Interpretation?
Juliette Fritsch

Part IV: Interpretation, Personal Experience, and Memory
9. “I loved it dearly”: Recalling Personal Memories of Dress in the Museum. Torunn Kjolberg
10. Welcome to My World: Personal Narrative and Historic House Interpretation. Mariruth Leftwich
11. Narrative Museum, Museum of Voices: Displaying Rural Culture in the Museo Della Mezzadria Senese, Italy. Marzia Minore

Part V: Evidence-Based Practice
12. An Evaluation of Object-Centered Approaches to Interpretation at the British Museum. Steve Slack, David Francis and Claire Edwards
13. The Other Side of the Coin: Audience Consultation and the Interpretation of Numismatic Collections. Effrosyni Nomikou Part VI: Interpretive Strategies for Specific Audiences
14. Designing Effective Interpretation for Contemporary Family Visitors to Art Museums and Galleries: A Reflection of Associated Problems and Issues. Patricia Sterry
15. Interactive Gallery Interpretation for Design Students: Help or Hindrance? Elizabeth Dyson
16. Empower the Audience! How Art Museums Can Become Enriching Creative Spaces for a Wider Audience through Deliberate and Strategic Use of Experience and Learning Theories. Karen Grøn Part VII: Process and People
17. “Reading the Walls”: A Study of Curatorial Expectation and Visitor Perception. Sarah Ganz Blythe and Barbara Palley
18. “Education is a department isn’t it?” Perceptions of Education, Learning and Interpretation in Exhibition Development. Juliette Fritsch

New courtyard for V&A

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on March 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Yesterday the Victoria & Albert Museum announced who is going to design the new courtyard they are planning to build. Amanda Levete Architects are the successful studio. It’s going to be a great, iconic space for the V&A – along Exhibition Road – that will also bring together many of the disparate areas of the museum. Being down in the bowels of the building can sometimes be a little confusing, and this will make it all make sense.

The project also includes the construction of a new dedicated temporary exhibition centre underneath the courtyard, which is even more good news for visitors – if you’ve been to a show there recently, you’ll know that it can get a little confusing dipping in and out of that corridor half way through the exhibition space.

There’s an article about all of this and the V&A’s FuturePlan project live now on Museum [Insider].

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…

Curious Specimens at the V&A

In Museums on February 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I’ve just booked to go to a two-day conference at the V&A called Curious Specimens. It looks fantastic but I’m a bit nervous about going on my own, so I hope someone will decide to come with me and hold my hand. Here’s the low down:

It’s linked to their Strawberry Hill exhibition, which I’m desperate to go along and see when it opens on 6 March.

They say: “Focusing on the extraordinary acquisitions of Walpole and the English bluestocking, Mary Delaney, papers will discuss collections, collectors and their circles; objects remarkable for their curious modes of production; crafts of collecting such as Delaney’s ‘paper foliage’ collages and Walpole’s extra-illustrations; what Walpole called ‘the genealogy of objects of virtu’, including the lives of the copy and the fake in Enlightenment collections; intersections and tensions between antiquarian, aesthetic and scientific cultures of collecting and between the collection and the museum. Speakers include Adriano Aymonino, Stephen Bann, Craig Hanson, Janice Neri, Lucy Peltz, Alicia Weisberg Roberts, Stacey Sloboda and Michael Snodin.”

My word, V&A speak is pretty much inpenetrable isn’t it? I think they mean it’s about why 18th-century collecting was so bonkers. Sounds like a laugh to me – cabinets of curiosity and all that.

Thursday 15 April (17.00-18.30) at the Royal College of Surgeons
Friday 16 April (10.30-18.00) at the V&A

It’s only £36 full price, and that includes a wine reception and lunch! What a bargain.

New ceramics galleries at V&A

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm

The ceramics galleries at the V&A have been closed for a while for a major redevelopment. The new galleries are going to be completed in two phases, with the first suite set to open in September 09. They promise to be stunning.

I’ve written a piece about them which went live on
Museum [Insider] today.

V&A plans to expand?

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on March 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm

The V&A in London is perhaps going to follow suit with other national museums and open a branch in the provinces. Tate went to Liverpool and St Ives; the Imperial War Museum went to Manchester; and the National Maritime Museum went to Falmouth.

Now the national museum of art and design is considering opening a branch in Dundee. The proposed idea is wouldn’t be owned by the V&A, but it would take blockbuster exhibitions from there and show them to a Scottish audience.

Plans also propose close collaboration with local artists and universities, with artist in residence schemes planned to run continuously. It’d be a great addition to the Scottish arts scene.

There’s a new piece about it on Museum [Insider].