Night in the Museum at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

You would be forgiven for immediately jumping to the conclusion that this post is about a film franchise starring Ben Stiller. It is not. There is a subtle difference in the title (for copyright reasons one wonders?). You might think that this piece is about an over night event at the big museum in The Brum. It’s not about that either.

Night in the Museum is a new exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. At its heart though, the concept of the exhibition is one that we see time and time again when the lights go off and the staff go home. Things come alive (witches, mummies, monsters). What we see is a freeze frame of art… looking at art.

Curated by artist Ryan Gander, the pieces are all involved in the act of looking. The art becomes the audience – looking, wondering, trying to make sense of what it is they are looking at. This piece, inspired by Lucy (an early ancestor of us humans) got me thinking – is it art that makes us human? The making of it? The appreciation of it? Does anything else make pictures to help them make sense of the world.

Our early ancestor, Lucy, appreciating art

Our early ancestor, Lucy, appreciating art

Has the art become self aware? It’s only a matter of time before this one builds a death-star and takes over the world.

An Epstein sculpture? Our future overlord?

An Epstein sculpture? Our future overlord?

Big deep thoughts make my head hurt sometimes. Luckily, there were a plethora of #MuseumBums to lighten the mood.

A golden man appreciating some blue lines

A golden man appreciating some blue lines

To really explore what the artworks are looking at, it becomes necessary to barge in front of them. A horribly rude act that normally puts one in gallery jail. (Disclaimer: not an actual jail. You’ll be subjected to a lot of tutting).

A reclining figure enjoying a nice picture

A reclining figure enjoying a nice picture

Needless to say, I felt incredibly bad blocking the view and found myself apologising. A lot. Chatting to Jon, the Learning Officer for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, he told me that a visitor had described this act as something transgressive, and likened it to treading on someone’s tombstone.

One thing was still gnawing at me about the show, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. A gallery assistant struck up a conversation with me, and then I realised what it was. She was wearing a blue fleece, standing by a blue man staring at himself in a blue mirror while she looked  at me with blue eyes.

Blue was everywhere.

A blue man, staring at a blue mirror

A blue man, staring at a blue mirror

It’s a colour loaded with meaning. So, what did it mean here?

In an interview with Artnet, Gander reveals that “Logically from my perspective, it is a good color for a stereotype of what we think of contemporary art. If Bugs Bunny walked into a gallery, the contemporary artwork he would see would most likely be an abstract organic shape in ultra-marine blue…”

So that clears that up then.

Night in the Museum is a fun, playful show – ducking and dodging and weaving your way around so as to not interrupt the view of a statue is an unusual way to navigate around an exhibition, but it is one that happened so naturally here. The exhibition is on until 12th February – go see it!

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