The British Museum is currently showing it's largest exhibition with a single living artist, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, an exhibition by the Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry paying homage to all the anonymous craftsmen whose work fills the British Museum.
The exhibition is a collection of pieces from the museum, selected by Grayson Perry shown alongside the artist's own work which culminates in with a huge model Viking ship, adorned with anonymous objects from the Museum.
Grayson Perry is lucky enough to live in nearby to museum and is able to make it his local, having spent many years gleaning inspiration from the collections, a relationship which is evident in the final show.
The exhibition was supported by AlixPartners and LVMH, Cindy Godwin, Marketing Director, Europe at AlixPartners said of the collaboration "Basically, because we saw this as being a 'game-changing' type of exhibition, which is very much in line with AlixPartners' raison d'être. When boards, CEOs or lawyers call AlixPartners, it is because they want to make a game-changing difference, not just something incremental. This often means working together to identify the best parts of their businesses and structuring things in a new way to create a high-impact rejuvenation of the business and the brand. Looking at things in a new way and having a high impact are definitely what the British Museum and Grayson Perry have done with this exhibition."
Being lucky enough to be shown around the exhibition by museum curator Philip Attwood Medals, Department of Coins and Medals, who worked on the exhibition with Grayson Perry I was talked through how the show was put together, this was all together a fascinating and humbling experience as all the objects made and found were linked in ways I never would have sootted but it set my mind to wander and I begun to think about the kinds of exhibitions that I had seen at the BM over the last couple of years.
Despite featuring ancient objects the exhibitions seems to hit a very contemporary note in a social and political sense. Celebrating the rich history of Nigeria with Kingdom of Ife, a place I had only previously read about in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, celebrating the amazing history of Ancient Afghanistan and the wonderful exhibition Gardens and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodphur.
It seemed the curation was turning the tables on what the museum has represented in the past. The museum has held a lot of poignant exhibitions, Afghanistan, Ife, The Maharaja's, it seemed to me that the museum was changing its role from simply housing what is seen by as many as the spoils of an empire to drawing attention to the great legacies of countries which are in danger of being wiped out and forgotten.
I was told by Attwood that Neil McGregor, the director of the museum travelled to Afghanistan after the war, being one of people entrusted to inspect the damage done to the historic legacy of Iraq and this trip is apparently what inspired the wonderful program at the museum over the last couple of years. It struck me as timely, as it has never been so effectively highlighted as through the political events of this year that history and politics are not simply about what we see now, the power balance of the world has changed over the centuries and it will change again and all countries and civilizations have contributed to the way we live today- it's not just about the now.
I think it is near genius how the curators at the museum have used the ancient to illustrate modern times, although this may be something I see as I wish to see it. Despite still having exhibitions made up of or based around the ancient objects of the museum Grayson Perry's use of the collections illustrates the just what an asset the museums collections are to us now, from an ancient ear, to Garyson's wonderful statues of Our Mother and Our Father.
And with visitor numbers of nearly six million last year I am not the only person who is enjoying this national institution and I would put The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman as one of the best modern art shows of the year.