When I say touring exhibitions I mean an exhibition that travels to different venues. Not going on a tour of exhibitions myself!
What makes a touring exhibition good?
For me its a strong theme so you know there is content relevant to your interests. Also the opportunity to see a show that you would normally have to travel a long way to see or simply not be able to get to.
If a touring exhibition has related objects from the host museum’s collection that’s another draw for me. A bit like get an unexpected treat!
A range of souvenirs is always a bonus. Admittedly I tend towards fridge magnets because they don’t take up much space. Having a selection of linked books, prints, cards and other items does make finding something easy.
A themed exhibition
An annual treat for myself and a friend is going to the International Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in Bristol. Wildlife photography fans will know this tours around the country. Having this available in Bristol is much closer and cheaper to get to than in London.
The show is consistently good both in terms of quality of images and addressing issues affecting wildlife. The photos have enough information on shooting them to give a connection with the photographer and an insight into their thinking. The subject range is broad enough to include contentious issues like pollution, deforestation, poaching and local jobs in conflict with wildlife preservation.
And a fine range of souvenirs across the prices range too! Sadly our favourite shot wasn’t available as a fridge magnet. It was there as a framed print at a reasonable price but I managed to resist temptation.
Touring exhibition with local collections
This second example is also from Bristol and again it was easy to get to for us. We saw Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences because we both wanted to see this work and it was easy for us to get there. Having seen the Rake’s Progress at the John Soanes Museum in the past we were keen to see how it inspired Grayson Perry.
We found the tapestries both impressive and thought provoking. Seeing this subject addressed nearly 200 years after the original was interesting in itself. What added to the exhibition was a copy of prints of the orignal Rake’s Progress on display to refresh the memory or let visitors discover it for the first time. An addition that I really enjoyed was a display of David Hockney prints also inspired by the orignal.
The Hockney sequence added to the exhibition by showing a different modern approach to the subject. It also was a very personal approach unlike the original and unlike Perry’s depiction of the Rake.
From a museum point of view
When there are touring exhibitions where I work the common response is visitors appreciate something different on show. Also an exhibiton no usually associated with our collections is popular. An exmaple of such an exhbiton was Hiroshige from the Ashmolean museum. As described above as host venue some items from RAMM’s collection were included and it meant visitors saw items normally kept in store.
The 2015 exhibition
Saw the touring exhibition of last year’s competition in Bristol’s M Shed today. As ever much to admire, study and get inspired by. We also liked the fridge magnets.
The exhibition space at M Shed is great for photography. It’s got enough space for plenty of work to get shown without feeling squeezed. This includes space for stop motion and a slideshow of the public’s choice.
Not just wildlife but the natural world
Perhaps the use of the environment is greater in this exhibition or I maybe simply noticed it more. A lot of images have a clear context whether tiny weevils on a plant stem or an aerial shot of small flamingoes.
Some parts of the competition are focussed (had to get that in somewhere) on the environment itself. I liked this and found the mix of small and large scale approaches kept it interesting.
The world is changing
The effects of climate change, politics and economics all feature. This added a depth to the exhibition for me as a reminder of mankind being able to influence nature.
There were some clear themes from previous years and nature photography in general. All were beautifully executed and in no way disappointing.
Some were visual as with the blue sea and shark combination or using sand dunes. More interesting for me were descriptions of how photographers achieved shots. These included using simple patience, bait of various kinds, testing their stamina in adverse conditions or simply taking lots of shots before achieving what they wanted.
Enter for 2016?
Well the familiar scenes of foxes and other found shots are encouraging but the standard is very high. I’m pondering it which is a good excuse. If you’re tempted have a go!
An old favourite
I’ve visited the Arnolfini many times since moving to the Westcountry in 1985.
Whether just a cuppa and cake or a meal the food and service is uniformly good. It does get crowded as a result though so be prepared to share a table, which can lead to interesting conversation. All of which can refresh you ready to savour the current exihibition or try to resist the tempatation of the book shop!
The Arnolfini is handily close to Temple Meads for pre-train dining, and sitting outside looking across the water is a pleasure on a warm evening.