After nearly two-years of hard work, the new Baroque galleries at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) are finally open! A project made possible thanks to the National Gallery Curatorial Traineeship, supported by the Art Fund with assistance from the Vivmar Foundation.
It all began with a 6-month period of intensive research, improving documentation around the BMAG collection and investigating issues of provenance, attribution, acquisition and display history. This also helped me gain an intimate understanding of the collection and allowed me to think critically about what should be on display. It became apparent that we had a number of art historically significant paintings and sculpture in store, which needed to be seen by our visitors. Once I had decided on the works I wanted to show, I then needed to think about how they could hang and how they would best complement each other. To help with this, I created a scale model where I could play around with miniature reproductions of the paintings.
Then I had to start thinking about conservation, since many of the sculptures were in need of a good clean before they could be shown to the public. It took our conservation intern Laura nearly two months to painstakingly clean our ‘Infant Saint John the Baptist’, now on display in the galleries. I also had to find cases and mounts for the sculptures, and was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Henry Moore Foundation to support this.
Other important factors to think about were lighting and wall colour. In the end I choose a deep purple colour, which gives the galleries a dramatic and very ‘Baroque’ feel and looks fantastic against the gold frames of the paintings.
I also developed new graphics for the galleries, including maps indicating where key works in the galleries made, to help those – like me – with poor geography! I also wrote new labels for all our works and sourced photographic images that could provide more visual context. Together with our learning team, I also developed new interactive resources for our galleries including worksheets, puzzles and dressing up!
It’s great to see visitors using the galleries, and it really brings them to life! For anyone who’s keen to learn more about the Baroque we have a whole host of talks and events, so check out our ‘What’s on ’ section.