Wednesday, 2 September 2009



Write an 800-1000 word exhibition review and bring it to the next Friday Critical Perspectives session for discussion:


(1) Goya, Fantasies, Follies, Disasters: Gallery 11 First Floor, Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL

(2) Modern Contemporary: Rooms 14-15 &16 (First Floor), Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL

(3) New Contemporaries 2009: Galleries 1, 2 & 3, Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester M1 5NH

Visit all exhibitions


10.15am meet for registration at Manchester City Art Gallery

10.30-12.00 visit the first two exhibitions and make your notes; work in groups by all means but have your own notes available for the following week (if you have time take a look at the other exhibits)

12.00-1.00 Lunch

1.10 Meet for registration at the Cornerhouse

1.15 -2.30 visit the Cornerhouse exhibition; again, make notes

3.30 Finish


Imagine that you are an art critic for a weekly magazine with an educated but non-specialist audience. You have been asked to write a review of one of the above exhibitions. Your task is to inform a would-be audience about an exhibition and to provide some context for it. To achieve this you need both to describe AND critique the exhibit and its rationale. This is NOT a research paper so you do not need to provide any biographical detail on the artists, but you can provide context by bringing in materials from exhibition labelling, catalogues, the media and our own discussions. Critics tend to write from their own backgrounds, so feel free to bring in things you have learned in class or from your own readings. Also feel free to mention when the exhibition confirms something you’ve learned elsewhere and when it challenges it.

Start by considering the exhibition’s arrangement as representing someone’s conscious creation. What are your initial impressions? Be very conscious of your reactions to the display.

Questions to help you get started.

1. What seems to be the premise (reason) for the exhibit arrangement? What aspects seem to matter most to the gallery/museum? How were the works chosen for inclusion in this space? Why these and not others? How does one room relate to its neighbour? What story does this room tell?

2. Special exhibitions involve choice. Does the exhibition borrow works from around the world or are they part of its own collection (in house). What do you think is accomplished by bringing these works together?

3. Does the display make you aware of where these works originally were and the purposes that they served? Is this aspect important to a museum/gallery display?

4. What can you learn about the art of a specific historical period by seeing original works on display in a museum setting? What sorts of works are included? What is their scale? What media and techniques are represented? Do you have a sense of why different media are used for different purposes? About how different media relate to one another?

5. How have the works been installed? Consider why certain works are grouped together. Does the arrangement make sense to you (does it create a narrative)? Notice things like placement, spacing, and lighting. What difference do these make (individually and collectively)? Are some of the works privileged over others by their position? What do you infer from seeming intangibles like framing and lighting?

6. Be conscious of your experience in visiting the rooms. How do you feel in the exhibition? What is the role of your surroundings in your experience?

7. Is learning an important part of the museum experience? How did you learn? How would you evaluate the labels, wall text, gallery guides (if any), or materials available elsewhere in the museum? Do these represent the best way to provide such information? What other alternatives might there be? Would you provide other kinds of materials in other formats?

8. Is there one or more work that you find particularly interesting? If so, feel free to discuss it in some detail, always bearing in mind how it relates to the exhibition as a whole.