Friday, 19 August 2011

Carry On Gallery Assisting

Marjie To
By Marjie Todd, Front of House Assistant

Working as a Gallery Assistant can be varied, very informative, really enjoyable and often fun. Fortunately, at Nottingham Contemporary we are visited daily by a public eager to take in the experience of each exhibition and sometimes to share their ideas with us.

In our last exhibition, the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping exhibited a sculpture “Amerigo Vispucci” - an aluminium bull mastif appearing to urinate against the wall in Gallery 1. The waste matter formed the shape of a U.S. map on the floor. One visitor, a dog owner and seemingly a canine behavioural expert, informed me that the patch of urine was in the wrong place in relation to the angle in which the dog was taking aim. An illuminating comment which highlights the fact that contemporary art can evoke the most unusual responses from those who view it.

Huang Yong Ping, Marche de Punya. (detail).  Photo by Stuart Wood
School Group at the Gallery
Another of Huang Yong Ping’s works was a sculpture of a very life-like elephant which lay on its side as part of the installation “Marche de Punya” which was showing in Gallery 2. It was interesting to witness the initial responses of visitors when confronted by this piece, particularly those of young children. My favourite was from a girl aged about 3 who mused that maybe Dumbo had flown through our large picture window at Weekday Cross and knocked himself out on the Gallery floor.

During our current exhibition “Jean Genet”, a young boy was very excited to see that we were showing sculptures by Alberto Giacometti. He told me that he took part in a school project inspired by the artist where they made art works using tin foil. He also made an offer (accompanied by a knowing look) for the bronze piece “Man Pointing” which is on display in Gallery 3.

John Newling, The Miracle Trees (Moringa Oleifera). Photo by Andy Keate.


We recently showed an installation by artist John Newling in our Study. This involved the germination and growth of the rare Moringa plant and the project drew many interested visitors. I was somewhat taken aback one day when I was on duty at the reception desk and a gentleman approached me and announced that he had “come to have a look at your Moringas”. Perhaps the Carry On films have a lot to answer for here!


John Newling, The Miracle Trees (Moringa Oleifera). Photo by Andy Keate.
Since Nottingham Contemporary has opened it has become commonplace to see our visitors making friends with our own loveable zebra and some of our regular young art lovers come especially to see him. It has also not been unusual to bump into a roving Russian cosmonaut, young men in swimming trunks and semi-naked ladies in large hats. (Most of this can be explained by viewing our 15 specially designed and striking logos on the Nottingham Contemporary website).

Marjie has a secret! She is the person holding the sunglasses in Ben Cain's artist logo.

Logo lady inspired by Anthea Hamilton's artist logo
Zebra mascot inspired by Klaus Weber's artist logo
 Paying us a visit can provide for a very entertaining and uplifting experience. Working as Gallery Assistants we see at first hand the effects that contemporary art has on those who come to see it and responses are overwhelmingly positive as we see and hear from those who come to visit us again and again.


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