Curatorial trainees: September update

  • 2 September 2016

Lucy West and Sylvie Broussine are the Art Fund's current curatorial trainees at the National Gallery, working with regional partners Ferens Art Gallery and Auckland Castle. Here, they share their third update.

Lucy West – Ferens Art Gallery 
Lucy West, curatorial trainee Photo © the National Gallery, London

Lucy West, curatorial trainee

With UK City of Culture 2017 drawing ever closer, there’s never a quiet moment at the Ferens Art Gallery. I’ve been donning a hard hat and boots to look around the gallery mid-refurbishment, and have also been writing funding applications, researching artworks and giving talks.

A stand-out event back in July was Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull. Responding to Hull’s maritime past, 3,200 participants took to the streets - naked and painted with the colours of the sea – to be photographed in site-specific installations in the early hours of the morning. It was an amazing experience to work alongside Spencer’s team and my colleagues in Hull - and this was made all the more surreal by the 1am wake-up call.

From contemporary commissions to Old Master paintings, my research into Pietro Lorenzetti’s panel Christ between Saints Paul and Peter (c.1320) and the Ferens' other early religious works has also been continuing. No sooner had I moved to Hull in April, I was back with suitcase in hand to spend five days in Italy, where I was fortunate enough to be able to use my travel bursary to carry out research into Lorenzetti and his contemporaries. I began in Assisi, to study the pioneering frescoes by artists such as Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti in the Basilica of Saint Francis. In Arezzo, I visited the church of Santa Maria della Pieve, where Lorenzetti’s magnificent Tarlati Polyptych (c.1320) still stands in situ (now undergoing important restoration). I finished up in Siena - an unrivalled opportunity to immerse myself in the art and architecture of Lorenzetti’s hometown first-hand.

This research will be drawn together for the Ferens’ reopening in January 2017. I have been getting stuck into the practical side of exhibition and redisplay planning, which has ranged from sending out loan request letters through to the difficult task of deciding wall colours for the gallery spaces with the Ferens’ team. At the moment, I am busy using modelling software to plan my gallery hang. My next focus will be on interpretation. This spans everything from writing wall labels to recording audio guides, and has so far included working with Heritage Learning, talking to local teachers. and meeting regularly with our Future Ferens volunteers.

As momentum builds towards January 2017, we’re readying ourselves for a hectic but very exciting and unique time ahead!

Sylvie Broussine – Auckland Castle 
Sylvie Broussine, curatorial trainee Photo © the National Gallery, London

Sylvie Broussine, curatorial trainee

I‘ve now been at Auckland Castle for five months and feel that I have gained a huge amount of experience in various areas of curatorial practice. I’ve been working closely with the team here in all areas of developing the Spanish Gallery, including assisting in creating key documents such as an acquisition strategy and mission and vision statements. For instance, for the acquisition strategy, I researched examples and created a portfolio to assist us in producing an effective and detailed document outlining the types of acquisitions appropriate for the Spanish Gallery.

I’ve also been contributing to Auckland Castle’s public programme by giving an Object in Focus talk on Lot and his Daughters, attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi. This was a great opportunity to share some of the research I’d carried out while at the National Gallery, as well as continue to develop my presentation skills. Having now given numerous public talks at the National Gallery and Auckland Castle, I feel more confident and comfortable in public speaking.

Alongside these tasks, I’ve also been assisting the Spanish Gallery team in developing a narrative structure, which has included researching numerous options based on thematic, chronological and geographical approaches. Part of my contribution to this discussion has been in creating examples on Powerpoint which situate Auckland Castle’s current collection into various structures (i.e. a thematic narrative), which help us to explore the practical and visual impact of different narrative structures.

As part of our research into potential narrative structures, the Spanish Gallery team and I have also been carrying out a programme of visits to museums and collections across the UK and Spain, which display and interpret Spanish and/or Baroque art. This programme included a trip to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery with Helen Hillyard, a previous Curatorial Trainee, where we learnt about the redisplay and reinterpretation of the Baroque Galleries. In particular, it was extremely helpful to discuss in detail the processes involved in curating galleries dedicated to 17th-century works.

After viewing numerous collections across the UK, we then turned our attention to Spanish museums and art galleries. I’m currently writing this blog from Madrid, during a two-week trip to Spain which includes visits to the permanent collections and exhibitions in the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. We also went to Toledo, where we visited Museo del Greco and Toledo Cathedral. This trip to Toledo was a great opportunity to enrich our knowledge of different approaches to contextualising the work of El Greco, which will help us in our display of Auckland Castle’s Christ on the Cross. It was also a fantastic and valuable opportunity to situate El Greco’s paintings within the context of the city in which he worked.

On returning to County Durham, I will work with the Spanish Gallery team to review our collection visits and create a portfolio of useful display and interpretation techniques. This will assist us in the exciting task of finalising the Spanish Gallery’s narrative structure.

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