“What happens when a national museum opens its stores of treasures to members of the public and challenges them to curate their own art exhibition for the very first time?”
BBC Wales hope that what happens is enough viewing figures to do a nationwide BBC series, and National Museum Wales hopes that what happens is an increase in visitors.
A series called The Exhibitionists has just been announced, taking five non museumy types, and letting them rip in the archives to arrange shows for public display. I like the concept, but the manner it’s being done in is a bit of a turn off. Rather than finding out what interests the average person when allowed to dive into a national collection, discovering the processes necessary to display and interpret objects and seeing how professionals can learn from new thoughts, the focus seems to be “they compete until two remain to put on their shows, and then after visiting those you vote for a winner.”
Even Phillip Moss, Commissioning Executive BBC Cymru Wales seems to think that competing is key:
"I'm confident people will engage with The Exhibitionists and enjoy following their trials and tribulations as they compete to see their own exhibitions on show at the National Museum."
Turning this into a competition may in some ways reflect what curators face, the challenge to update, renew and provide reasons for visitors to visit, needing that vital exhibition ticket or secondary spend to keep a place afloat financially. Unfortunately it feels like it wants to be Pop Idol does Behind The Scenes At The Museum because of “the reality TV premise that the viewing public is never happier than when quirky individuals are pitted against each other in unlikely situations.” *
There is a noble aim, the producer apparently hopes that people usually not interested will visit museums as a result of the show. However, couldn’t you make a series that interests, entertains and informs those people, without engaging them with the low hanging fruit of picking favorites and jeering at the ones they don’t like?
* As very aptly put by Sharon Heal, see the Museums Association for her view, I heartily recommend reading the comments at the bottom :)
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