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  • The Museum of Ordinary Animals opens at the Grant Museum

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 September 2017

    Throughout my career in museum zoology I have detected (and contributed to) a certain snobbery when it comes to some species of animal. It seems that as far as museum displays are concerned, not all animal specimens were created equally. Our new exhibition – opening today – seeks to address this.

    The Museum of Ordinary Animals tells the story of the boring beasts that have changed the world: the mundane creatures in our daily lives, including dogs, pigeons, cats, cows, chickens and mice. These animals are rarely represented in natural history museum displays. They are not special enough. Do we even need to go to a museum to see animals that we can find on our plates, on our laps and on our streets? People would rather see dinosaurs, dodos and giant whales.

    Domestic dog skulls. Humans’ first domestication was that of dogs from wolves. Today humans have forced the descendants of wolves to become the most anatomically variable of all species.

    Domestic dog skulls. LDUCZ-Z1046 and LDUCZ-Z1338b
    Humans’ first domestication was that of dogs from wolves. Today humans have forced the descendants of wolves to become the most anatomically variable of all species.

    Nevertheless, this exhibition puts these everyday species front and centre. It investigates some of the profound impacts they have had on humanity and the natural world, how they were created, and the extraordinary things we have learned from them. (more…)

    The trace is the appearance of nearness

    By Martine Rouleau, on 30 May 2017

    Blog post written by Liz Rideal, Leverhume artist in residence at UCL Art Museum and Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art

    Installation view of Terme Di Diocletian by Liz Rideal

    Installation view of Terme di Diocleziano by Mike Dye

    The trace is the appearance of nearness, however far removed the thing that left it behind may be. The aura is the appearance of a distance, however close the thing that calls it forth. In the trace, we gain possession of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.

    Walter Benjamin

    All of the UCL Museums exist in compact spaces, the Art Museum is no exception with John Flaxman‘s (1755-1826) sculptural bequests crowding the walls, leaving small gaps for temporary exhibitions. The advantage here is that the plethora adds to the excitement around what is available to see, and the Legacy exhibition of Richard Cooper Jnr (1740-1822) makes an unusual eighteenth century complement to the permanent display. Cooper Jnr’s prints are exhibited so that one can compare, contrast and appreciate their repetition of landscape format and small scale. We can recognise the tropes made familiar by his precedents, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Claude Lorraine (1604/5-1682) and lesser known but more famous in his day, Herman van Swanevelt (c.1603-1655) with their reiterated Italianate views made popular by print and available in albums. It emerged that the museum curatorial assistant George Richards’s Masters was on The Dutch golden age. A landscape print of Richard Cooper Jnr’s ‘after Swanevelt’ was in the display, consequently I was able to expand his knowledge of this artist through sharing art historian Sue Russell‘s research into Swanevelt, thus making further connections – another unimagined benefit of my Leverhulme research grant.

    (more…)

    Meanderings in the Vault

    By Martine Rouleau, on 24 November 2016

    Vault artist in residence Kara Chin and Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis introduce a screening of Magnetic Rose, a Japanese animé that follows four space travelers who are drawn into an abandoned spaceship that contains a world created by one woman’s memories, alongside It’s a Good Life, an episode of the Twilight Zone television series.

    h - Version 2

    This double programme started with an exchange between Kara and Martin about themes found in science, urban planning, art, films and other cultural productions. The essence of this discussion can be found here. Kara Chin is hosting a screening of the Japanese animé Paprika, also discussed here, on the evening of the 29th of November.

    (more…)

    Unlocking the Museum’s Vaults

    By Martine Rouleau, on 27 September 2016

    Unlocking the Museum’s Vaults

    IMG_0267

    Image: Kara Chin

    After 6 years of curating a collaborative group exhibition with the Slade School of Art, UCL Art Museum has launched its first artists’ residency. This summer, we invited 4 Slade artists to delve into the collections, to mine the staff for information and to produce new work in response to their experience. The resulting exhibition and series of public programmes, entitled Vault, is now on show at the museum until December 2016.

    (more…)

    Spectacular Revolution

    By Martine Rouleau, on 27 May 2016

    Blog post for UCL Art Museum, Revolution under a King exhibition by Dr Susannah Walker, UCL Art History Department.

    LDUCS_A_Versaille

    Anonymous, A Versaille a Versaille, 1789, etching and engraving, UCL Art Museum

    Despite its Enlightenment origins, one of the French Revolution’s legacies is a rich strain of macabre imagery that has entered popular culture: Marie-Antoinette’s hair turning grey at the prospect of the guillotine. The assassinated radical journalist Marat slumped in his bath. The apocryphal tale of the bals des victimes where survivors of the Terror were said to have worn short hair and a red ribbon at the throat in reference to the guillotined head.

    The dark humour of popular prints may be at the origin of this cultural response. One bitterly ironic anonymous image of Revolutionary leader Robespierre imagines “having had all the French people guillotined [he] beheads the executioner with his own hand.”

    (more…)

    Conservation of Public Art in the UCL Wilkins Building

    By Susi Pancaldo, on 11 March 2016

    Have you ever noticed – as you hurry off to class, the library or an event – that UCL’s campus is filled with works of art?

    The Wilkins Building, at the heart of the UCL Bloomsbury campus’ main quad, is particularly rich in sculpture. Outside the building, of course, are the iconic lead athletes on the steps below the dome.

    Lead statues of the Capitoline Antinous and the Discophorus, Wilkings Building

    Lead statues: Capitoline Antinous and Discophorus, Wilkins Building

    These figures have a fascinating history and I will write more about them another time.

    Inside the Wilkins Building, there is an abundance of works on permanent display too. Adjacent to the Jeremy Bentham auto-icon are two large, ancient Egyptian limestone lions in excavated by Sir Wm.M.F. Petrie. There are a number of 19th and early 20th century sculptures on either side of the Octagon Gallery; wall paintings in the Whistler Room (soon to be opened to the public); and upstairs, within the library, a myriad of sculpture in and around the 1st floor Flaxman Gallery. (more…)

    Ah! Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira!

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 1 March 2016

    Anonymous Bon, nous voila d’accord (Good, now we are in tune), 1789 Coloured etching, UCL Art Museum

    Anonymous
    Bon, nous voila d’accord (Good, now we are in tune), 1789
    Coloured etching, UCL Art Museum

    Ah! Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira! (Oh! it will go well today, it will go well, it will go well!)

    On Thursday 25th February, UCL Chamber Music Club performed a special concert of French Revolutionary music for a public audience in UCL Art Museum. The concert was part of the public programme for the exhibition Revolution under a King: French Prints 1789-92. The repertoire comprised pieces by contemporary composers such as François-Joseph Gossec, J. Rouget de Lisle and Th. Desorgues amongst others.

    We wanted to bring the prints in the exhibition to life through music. The responsiveness of music for public spectacle and as a tool to reflect sentiment mirrored the use of print as propaganda during the years of the French Revolution. In the print above, The Three Estates are shown playing the same tune, symbolising their agreement. The member of the clergy (First Estate), playing an instrument known as a serpent (whose implication of duplicity would have been clear to contemporary viewers), faces the oboe-playing aristocrat (Second Estate), while the man in the centre representing the Third Estate, playing his violin, eyes him cautiously. All three types are in keeping with what were, at this point, becoming established ways of representing the Three Estates. Despite the theme of consensus, the clergyman is fat and smug, the noble gaunt and haughty, and the Third Estate watchful and wise; soon, as related prints made clear, they would all dance to his tune.

    (more…)

    The Age of Revolutions

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 29 February 2016

    Josiah Wedgewood (1730 – 1795), Philippe-Égalité, 1790-2 (White jasper ware, dipped in dark blue, applied jasper ware reliefs)

    Josiah Wedgewood (1730 – 1795), Philippe-Égalité, 1790-2 (White jasper ware, dipped in dark blue, applied jasper ware reliefs)

    Blog post for UCL Art Museum, Revolution under a King exhibition by Dr Susannah Walker, UCL Art History Department

    On 10th February I joined Dr Richard Taws, the co-curator of UCL Art Museum’s current exhibition Revolution under a King: French Prints 1789-92, to give a lunchtime lecture on the prints in the so called “Age of Revolutions”.

    (more…)

    The terror, the terror!

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 15 February 2016

    Anonymous, Essai de la Guillotine, 1793, UCL Art Museum

    Anonymous, Essai de la Guillotine, 1793, UCL Art Museum

    On 26 January UCL Art Museum hosted a Pop-Up display dedicated to the theme of the French Revolution. This ties in with our current exhibition, Revolution under a King: French Prints 1798-92. As part of our ongoing wish to support UCL students and alumni, the exhibition was curated by volunteers Viktoria Espelund, Shijia Yu and Rosa Rubner. They each chose French Revolutionary prints from our collection and approached the topic from unique perspectives. The rationale behind their selections can be seen below.

    (more…)

    A King as catapult practice!

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 21 January 2016

    Detail of Noel Lemire (1724 – 1801), After Jean Michel Moreau (1741 – 1814), Louis Seize, 1792, Coloured etching, Inscribed: Bonnet des Jacobins donné au Roi 20 Juin 1792 (The Jacobin bonnet of liberty given to the King 20 June 1792); A Paris Chez L’Auteur Rue des Augustins, UCL Art Museum

    Detail of Noel Lemire (1724 – 1801), After Jean Michel Moreau (1741 – 1814), Louis Seize, 1792, Coloured etching, Inscribed: Bonnet des Jacobins donné au Roi 20 Juin 1792 (The Jacobin bonnet of liberty given to the King 20 June 1792); A Paris Chez L’Auteur Rue des Augustins, UCL Art Museum

    On this day, 21 January 1793, Louis XVI of France, stepped out of a carriage in the Place de la Révolution (formerly Place Louis XV) and climbed the steps to the guillotine.

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