The British Museum Exhibitions 2015 – Enduring Civilisations

Mummy Roman Period

Unusual Mummy from the Roman period, discovered Thebes, Egypt, courtesy The British Museum

During 2015 The British Museum will present a range of exhibitions and event programs that should appeal to a wide and diverse variety of tastes.

The societies and cultures the exhibitions represent range from the most ancient on earth, the Indigenous Australian, to the people of the Pacific, the Celts, and from Celtic Art to the Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece and Bonaparte and the British.

The exhibition Ancient Lives: New Discoveries, which highlights many amazing discoveries through a special selection of eight mummies taken from the Museum’s extensive collection.

The show which is very extensive, has been so popular it has been extended until 19th April, as crowds keep clamouring to get in.

We certainly sustain our fascination with the ‘afterlife’. The use of The British Museum for the new movie Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has aided people’s knowledge of its collection. To celebrate they developed a FREE app, that unlocks many secrets.

Discobolus

The Discobolus by Myron, courtest The British Museum

The Meroë Head of Augustus is still on display until 15th February, causing a sensation now as it did so many centuries ago.

The culture of the Celts is coming and always a subject that is appealing.

Celtic art also has a long history, although its not restricted to one place or time. The Celts and their art forms were found in Britain, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Western Europe.

The objects they left behind reveal how the Celtic identity gradually evolved in affected by their relationship to each time and place this includes merging with the Anglo Saxon- English in Britain.

The well-conceived exhibition ‘Defining beauty, the body in ancient Greek Art’, which visited Bendigo im Australia in 2014, starts in London on March 6 – June 22nd.

The Discobolus, a work of fine art by ancient Greek sculptor Myron of Eleutherae (working 480 BC-440 BC) will no doubt continue to win fans to its favour.

It is one of several copies of a lost bronze original, from the 5th century before the Christ event, when discus throwing was the first element in the pentathlon of the Greek games.

This copy is from the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli, Italy and at some stage in the past was wrongly restored, its head should be looking backward at the discus.

It is still beautiful, as Myron revels in revealing the athletic human body as a single dynamic plane.

This show is both socially and sexually oriented, because it explores human character from the simplicity of Cycladic figurines to the glories of the Hellenistic age after Alexander the Great, when realism was completely unleashed.

Plum PuddingBonaparte and the British: Prints and Propaganda in the Age of Napoleon will be a show coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and more.

During Napoleon’s age political commentary reached a pinnacle of achievement, with British and French satirists in particular having a field day.

The works were inspired by all the ‘political and military tensions’ producing a whole new visual language that became popular with the people.

James Gillray (1756-1815) produced a cartoon that has remained a favourite ever since.

Published in 1805, The Plum pudding in danger….or State Epicures taking un Petit Souper is one of the great satirical comments of the age.

Napoleon-by-Gros-at-Arcola

Napoleon on the Bridge o Arcole by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1801, courtesy le Louvre, Paris

It depicts the Prime Minister of England William Pitt with Napoleon Bonaparte, facing each other across a steaming ‘plum-pudding’ globe as they carve themselves a substantial portion of the world.

Pitt calm, meticulous and confident, spears the pudding with a trident, which is indicative of British naval supremacy. Napoleon Bonaparte reaches from his chair his eyes firmly fixed on the prize of Europe, as he cuts away France, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and the Mediterranean.

The British saw Napoleon as a tyrant in the modern sense of the word – tyrannical, a ruler who used power unjustly.

The French on the other hand see him as a hero, which is the ancient definition of the word tyrant.

They believed Napoleon improved their way of life and also raised their expectations of what it could be.

A book published to coincide with the exhibition reveals the stories behind the prints, including the exultation at his triumph when he won the Battle of the Nile 1798 and triumphalism after Waterloo and his exile.

Yet others will provide an ambiguous view of his fall from grace.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was extraordinary, a young artillery captain who seized the day in two hectic days of backstage meetings and musters known as the Brumaire coup d’état. He wanted to reform a foundering government and when elevated to both Consul and Emperor, transformed both France and Europe.

Napoleon-Dashing

Napoleon as First Consul, by Antoine Gros, 1802

When Napoleon became First Consul in 1800 he commissioned statues of heroes of history whom he admired, including Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Brutus, Julius Caesar, John, Duke of Marlborough, George Washington and Frederick the Great.

The first consul by Gros was one of the few portraits for which he posed.

Crowned Emperor on December 2 1804 he placed the laurel wreath on his own head and adopted the industrious bee as his personal emblem, modelling himself on the Roman ideal for the next decade.

During the peace he reinvented the art of leadership warfare and used his skill at mathematics to modernize France reforming its laws and putting in place systems that helped society operate more efficiently and move about more effectively than ever before.

His Empire reflected in the style of its art and design, both faltered and stalled when fatal expeditions into Spain and Russia led to him finally joining the ancients that he so admired.

Funerary Figures

Funerary monument, early second century – a woman holding the bust of her husband, courtesy Trustees The British Museum

The British Museum also has a number of touring exhibitions on loan both nationally and internationally.

Child's Socik

Child’s Sock, Egyptian, courtesy Trustees The British Museum

Roman Empire, Power and People will feature some of their collection’s most fascinating objects, with over 160 pieces on display. It is touring at The McManus art gallery and museum in Dundee until May and then at Segedunum Roman Fort and Baths from 30 May.

There will be sculptures from the villas of Hadrian and Tiberius Roman Emperors, as well as near perfectly preserved children’s clothing, which must also be a first.

Clothing is the main feature of Shifting Patterns: Pacific barkcloth clothing which is a free exhibition 5th February – 16th August, 2015.

The traditions attached to making cloth from the inner bark of trees goes back some 5,000 years in the islands of the Pacific.

Fragile, with difficulties attached to its conservation, there is an extraordinary diversity in patterns and textures between the islands brought about by painting, dying and stencilling. Textural patterns are impressed when it is damp.

Wedding Dress 1

Barkcloth wedding dress by Samoan designer Paula Chan Cheuk, New Zealand, 2014, commissioned with support from the New Zealand Society UK and private donors © The Trustees of the British Museum

The time frame is from the early 19th century to their conversion to Christianity, this is a tale told well with painted motifs and designs.

Auckland, New Zealand and Pacific Islander artists incorporate barkcloth into high fashion designs today taking both western and indigenous clothing styles as inspiration.

With the focus in the southern hemisphere The British Museum Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation will be a major exhibition from 23 April – 2 August.

It will reflect the spiritual complexity of the indigenous Australians intimate knowledge of their environment over the course of 55,000 years of their history.

Highlights include a shield believed to have been collected in 1770 by Captain Cook, practical yet beautifully designed objects such as spear-throwers and boomerangs, and magnificent works of contemporary art.

The objects on display are now an integral aspect of The British Museum collection. They were gathered and returned to England in the days of the earliest contact between outsiders in our land.

British Museum Great Court

The British Museum, Great Court designed by Foster+Partners

A visit to the British Museum will lead you inevitably into the modern ‘Great Court at the British Museum, designed by perhaps one of the greatest architects of the 20th, and early 21st centuries Norman Foster, Mozart of Modernism.

British Museum 2His glorious ‘glazed canopy is a fusion of state-of-the-art engineering and economy of form.

It was designed to span the irregular gap between the drum of the Reading Room and the courtyard facades, and forms both the primary structure and the framing for the glazing, which is designed to reduce solar gain’.

It has become a meeting place, forming a new civic space and cultural square much like a great square in times gone by, but this time under glass so people are protected from the elements.

As it is at the heart of the museum, providing pedestrian access to the British Library, Covent Garden, the River Thames and South Bank, the court it is all about connecting people with their past, present and future.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

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