Melanie Manchot: “We need museums now and forever” 


We’re thrilled that artist Melanie Manchot has created a reward for our #TogetherForMuseums crowdfunding campaign – a retro dance bag with a vibrant design featuring cut-outs of people dancing.

Today she tells us about the inspiration behind it – a collective dance performance, Dance (All Night, London), which she co-ordinated in 2017 as part of that year’s Art Night festival, and which saw dancers parading through the streets before coming together to offer free dance lessons to the public.

Here’s Melanie on what museums mean to her, and why it’s so important that we all show our support for them this year.

Art Fund: What motivated you to get behind the campaign – why are you standing #TogetherForMuseums?

Melanie Manchot: This campaign to support a range of museums at this precise moment in time is vital and urgent for so many reasons.

The very idea of standing together for a cause epitomises this difficult year, not just in terms of the economic fallout of the pandemic but also the need for us to rethink together in light of Black Lives Matter.

If there’s one thing the first lockdown taught me, it is a rediscovery of the visceral pleasure of seeing works of art in physical spaces, alongside other people.

We don’t just ‘see’ with our eyes and brains; we understand art through our experience of it. Museums are vital in offering us spaces to see with all our senses, alongside other people and their simultaneous explorations.

Melanie Manchot, Dance (All Night, London), Art Night 2017, acquired 2017 for the Arts Council Collection with Art Fund support. Photo © Rachel Cherry

Melanie Manchot, Dance (All Night, London), Art Night 2017, acquired 2017 for the Arts Council Collection with Art Fund support. Photo © Rachel Cherry

Your ‘Dance All Night’ bag captures the joy of dance and togetherness. Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the reward you’ve created?

Dancing, and in particular dancing together in public spaces, is something we, as people, have always done in myriad ways – across eras, geographies and cultures.

Working on Dance (All Night, London) allowed me to explore notions of collective agency – and collective joy – by inviting a diverse public to come together and participate in the production of an unchoreographed mass dance.

Every person attending, whether they danced all night or watched for a short while, made that artwork happen. Each person is in some way a co-creator of that project – shaping and realising that initial proposition with me.

In that sense Dance (All Night, London) seemed an apt project for the crowdfunding campaign, as it is all about the spirit of co-creation. For the campaign, we wanted to create a sports bag that would hopefully appeal to many people, whether dancers, swimmers, or in fact someone using it as an overnight travel bag. The retro shape, colours and design have a 70s look which we hope have a playful and light sensibility.

What do museums mean to you?

Pre-pandemic it might have been easy to take our museums for granted; they are part of the fabric of our wider culture, both in their architectural presence and their historical significance. But with the #TogetherForMuseums appeal perhaps we can all ask ourselves how much museums mean to each of us, not just in the literal sense of visiting them and seeing shows but in the knowledge that they are the repositories of our history, our many cultures, of collective memory as held in artefacts and objects.

They are our legacies and we need them now and forever, no matter how often we visit them. If we ask ourselves how we might feel if these great buildings stood empty – we would quickly understand how much museums mean.

Thank you for supporting #TogetherForMuseums. If you haven’t already donated, take a look at the rewards on offer and learn more about the campaign.

Your support will help museums respond to the challenges of Covid-19, and reimagine a brighter future.

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