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Gallery Museum

Let’s get digital!

Whilst museums and galleries are likely to remain closed for the coming months, that doesn’t have to stop you engaging with their collections and what better time to think, innovate, discuss and debate online – when we all likely have some extra time on our hands during the corona-crisis. The National Gallery offer virtual tours via Google Street View, and you can sign up to their newsletter and YouTube channel featuring lunchtime talks, curator and art restoration specials, and snapshots on artists or specific works. The Victoria & Albert Museum is currently airing a six part behind-the-scenes series (Secretes of the Museum) available on BBC iPlayer, has a blog, and vast learning section with educational offerings from primary school age through to museum peer learning. You can still explore the British Museum via Google Street View and over four million objects within its collection online, as well as podcasts offering talks from curators and other staff (the most recent episode focussing on women and how they have shaped the museum since its opening in 1759). Tate have a podcast subscription covering varied subjects ranging from the Art of Love, to the Art of HipHop, Innovation and Remembering as well as Tateshots; approximately six minute short films about artists, their lives and practice, or from curators. Tate Kids also offers an online “make” section, video tours, games, quizzes, accessible information on artists and movements, and a virtual gallery where budding Picasso’s can display their own works. The Natural History Museum also offers virtual tours, and each room featured allows you to zoom in on objects with links to more detailed information about certain specimens. Moving away from the nationals, Somerset House is offering a digital programme of films, podcasts, artist interviews and live streams – and the adjoining Courtald has digitised its collection allowing great online access since its closure for restoration in 2018. The home to the incurably curious (otherwise known as The Wellcome Collection) offers topical articles on Covid-19 as well as a stories section which invites anyone to submit words or pictures which explore the connections between science, medicine, life and art, with its most recent post fittingly a graphic novel about isolation. Barbican have a series of 30 minute podcasts or playlists ranging from Japanese innovators, to masculinity, jazz and autism in the cinema, as well as articles, long reads and videos available. Though the physical doors to our museums might be closed, the digital channels are well and truly open!

 

Categories
Museum

Troy: The British Museum

Troy: myth and reality is not just the title of The British Museums’ current blockbuster, but also a perfect summary of the exhibition. The show focusses on the epic tale of Helen (the most beautiful woman in the world) who was abducted by Prince Paris of Troy after the goddess Aphrodite promised her to him which sparked a ten year war – and has fascinated archaeologists, writers, artists, film-makers and the public for centuries. It is visually impressive; blue silk screens with white text replace traditional vinyl on walls or panel information, key English and Greek phrases suspend from the ceiling, and archaeological finds, sculpture, paintings, original manuscripts, photography and a poster of the 2004 film starring Brad Pitt all vye for attention. The show explores the archaeological evidence from a hill site excavated in the 19th century and from the 1870’s excavations by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, which geographically pinpoint Troy in what is now north-west Turkey and believed to be a real rather than mythical place. Depictions on classical pottery dating back to 400 BC, descriptions in Homer and Ovid’s poetry, a stunning marble sculpture of the wounded Achilles by Filippo Albacini in 1825, and re-tellings of the story in medieval paintings all show the heroes in battle, sorrow and downtime, making them multidimensional and real. There is a focus on the Greek hero Odysseus and his adventures trying to get home at the end of the war, made famous in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. It also examines the frequently overlooked women, from Helen (who sparked the war), to Hecuba (Queen of Troy), Aphrodite (goddess of love whose meddling led to the war), Penelope (wife of Odysseus), the Sirens (nymphs who tried to lure sailors to shipwreck through their singing) and many others, who like their male counterparts have captivated audiences. The show closes with modern takes on Troy, with a photograph by Eleanor Antin inspired by Rubens’ Judgement of Paris, and a light installation based on Achilles’ shield by Spencer Finch.

For more information visit their website

Categories
Museum

Defining Beauty: the body in ancient Greek Art: The British Museum

Regardless of arts funding cuts, £17.50 admission fee seems a lot for an exhibition. This is made all the more acute when you realise the exhibition is largely populated with pieces normally on display for free within the museums’ permanent collection; yet this is how much The British Museum are charging for their current blockbuster ‘Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art’. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but with promises to display everything “from the abstract simplicity of prehistoric figurines to breath-taking realism in the age of Alexander the Great” I was left sorely disappointed. The exhibition opens assuredly with five life-size or larger statues including the iconic discus-thrower by Myron (used as the lead image for this exhibition), however you quickly realise the majority are Roman copies or replicas rather than the Greek originals I was hoping to see. Despite poignant quotations on the walls from Socrates, Aristotle and Eurprides, the replica’s become even less convincing in the next room as the blindingly bright colours painted onto statues and gold-leaf Helen of Troy resemble a Christmas grotto rather than an exhibition celebrating classical sculpture. For me, the exhibition also lacked context throughout and failed to give visitors an understanding of the statues original meaning, use or placement. On a more positive note, some highlights include a 1st century BC Roman bronze baby with outstretched arms which is impressively realistic, the ‘Hermaphroditos’ which looks deceptively like a sleeping woman until you walk around it and see the male genitalia on the other side, and a two inch high bronze statue of Ajax driving a knife into his chest (depicted with an erect penis to convey the trauma of the moment)! Sadly however, these glimmers of hope are not enough to make up for how underwhelming the exhibition is as a whole.

For more information visit their website