To celebrate the opening of a new exhibition at the Gateway Galleries, St Andrews, we thought it would be interesting to prepare a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into curating an exhibition! The exhibition was created by curators from the Museum Collections Unit at the University of St Andrews, in partnership with the Museum Services department at the University of Dundee – http://www.dundee.ac.uk/museum/ .
The new exhibition is called Mathematical Beauty: the Science & Art of Form and features works of contemporary art inspired by the work of the pioneering scientist, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948). Thompson was a gifted biologist, mathematician and classical scholar who was Professor at Dundee and St Andrews. His landmark work, On Growth and Form (1917), proposed ground-breaking ideas on the study of natural form, which continue to inspire artists to the present day.
From the outset of the exhibition, we were keen to make sure that the exhibition space had a sleek, contemporary feel that was sympathetic to the art works on display.
Many of the art works in the exhibition were purchased by Museum Services at the University of Dundee with the assistance of a grant from the Art Fund – http://www.artfund.org/news/2011/09/11/six-successful-renew-projects-to-gain-funding-for-new-collections . These were kindly lent to us for the exhibition. After filling out lots of loan forms and paperwork, all of the art works and also some objects were carefully wrapped and transported to the Gateway Galleries in St Andrews by a courier company. We are very relieved to say that everything arrived in one piece! With all of the exhibits present in the gallery, we could start the exciting task of unpacking and displaying items on the walls (with the invaluable assistance of our Estates Department) and in the four display cases in the gallery.
One of the greatest challenges of the exhibition was the installation of a large TV screen in the gallery space. We needed a screen in the gallery to show a visual installation called ‘Flowers’ by the cutting-edge digital artist, Daniel Brown – http://www.danielbrowns.com/ . This was something that we had never done before in any of our museum venues so it was a big learning experience! At the outset of the planning process, we thought that it would be a good idea to mount the screen in the middle of a free-standing wall, which would be built and located in the centre of the gallery. This was a display method that we had seen used in other galleries and we thought it would look good in the exhibition space at the Gateway Galleries. However, after doing some research into building a wall (and looking at our budget!), we decided that it would be easier to attach the screen to the wall at the back of the gallery space. We were kindly able to borrow a screen from the University’s Media Services department who also performed lots of clever techno-wizardry! The University joiners were a fantastic support and securely installed the screen in the gallery for the exhibition. Result!
During the planning stages of the exhibition, we visited lots of contemporary art galleries and decided that a good way to achieve a modern feel in the gallery was to provide interpretation for the exhibition using self-adhesive vinyl lettering on the gallery walls. The lettering was produced by a local company and installed in the final stages of set-up once we had made sure that we were happy with the layout of the exhibition. The use of vinyl lettering was a big change for us (we normally use printed cardboard panels) but we think it looks great!
After adding the finishing touches to the gallery and getting the dusters out one last time to polish the display cases, the exhibition opened to the public on the 17th January! Come along to the Gateway Galleries to see the finished result! What is your favourite art work or object on display in the exhibition? As always, we’re happy to hear any feedback about the exhibition and answer any questions!
Claire (Collections Curator) and Naomi (Learning and Access Trainee Curator)
Mathematical Beauty: the Science & Art of Form takes place at the Gateway Galleries, North Haugh, St Andrews from 17 January to 2 March 2013. Opening times are Monday to Friday: 9am-3.45pm, Saturday 12-4pm. Free admission.
An exciting events programme is taking place in the Gateway Galleries and Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History to accompany the exhibition – http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/museum/gateway/whatson/
The University of Dundee is hosting two related exhibitions as part of the Art Fund’s RENEW scheme in the Tower Foyer & Lamb Galleries, Dundee.