Ghosts of Exhibitions past…

At work, we’ve been having a bit of a tidy up. I love a good old clear out, something interesting always pops up. This is what I found the last time I tackled the cupboards in our Learning spaces…

Recently, a lot of old exhibition pamphlets were unearthed. Since 2009, when Towner Art Gallery moved into a new building, we have developed a reputation for putting on world class exhibitions. Our current exhibition, A Certain Kind of Light includes work by Anish Kapoor; The Museum of Art has a Grayson Perry and Towards Night  displayed a Marc Chagall, a Turner and a Lowry. And these are just the most recent ones, and they have gone down very well. 

*Doffs imaginary hat to my colleagues in curatorial*

Well. Imagine my surprise when I find an old pamphlet for an exhibition called Six Eastbourne Dentists. Oh how I wish I was a fly on the wall when that one was pitched.

At its heart, the idea is simple – six dental practices recreated pieces from the gallery’s permanent collection. The works and pictures were to be hung side by side. 1994 must’ve been a simpler time.

Here are some of the finished products…

L: Self Portrait in Character, Mortimer R: A recreation
L: Self Portrait in Character, Mortimer R: A recreation

Moving beyond the fact that the self portrait looks an awful lot like Michael Sheen, this is probably the most successful of the recreations. The links between the ‘inspiration’ and the recreation get increasingly tenuous as the series progresses.

The Seaweed Gatherers
L: The Seaweed Gatherers R: A recreation

Ending in this…

Two Trunked Elephants
L:Two Trunked Elephants R: a recreation

In the pamphlet’s epilogue, we learn that the people behind this project ‘planned a complicated entertainment for dental practices.’ Recreating images is fun, we do it all the time, but it isn’t complicated by an stretch of the imagination. I’m pretty sure that even back in 1994 it wasn’t all that difficult to mimic a pose.

Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio, the exhibition’s masterminds, go on to say that ‘These photographs aren’t beautiful, profound or insightful.’

So, I can’t help but wonder, what was the point?

I’m tempted to say that it was an exercise in building relationships with the community, but the gallery was much more successful with an exhibition three years before this one called Public Choice – you can guess what happened with that one 🙂

The legacy of this was for the images to hang in the dental surgeries, but without the original images for context, and lacking any other merit, again, I have to ask, what was the point?

One of the essays in the pamphlet is fond of quoting Oscar Wilde. He’s infinitely quotable, and always pops up in the most unexpected places. The quote is ‘all bad art is the result of good intentions.’

So… yeah… we’ve come a long way.


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