Enfilade

Exhibition | The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 28, 2012

While you probably wouldn’t know it from the description provided below, the eighteenth century is a major theme for this exhibition on horses at The British Museum — with a good showing of Stubbs, including Letitia, Lady Lade from the Royal Collection, but other treats, too. I found it immensely instructive, one of the most interestingly layered exhibitions I recall seeing in a long time. There’s something for everyone — antiquity and the role of the horses in early civilizations and empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt, extraordinary Persian and Mughal miniatures, textiles, equestrian rock art (photographed in stunning detail), paintings, books, portraiture, agrarian history, and sport. The challenge, however, is not simply putting together a varied exhibition but imparting coherence, and given just how much is covered in this relatively modest sized show, it succeeds brilliantly, appropriately acknowledging both the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics without being obsequious to either one. It also offers, I think, an example of how projected photographs and video can be used effectively in an exhibition without taking over or supplanting the objects on display. For better or worse, I’m guessing we’ll see lots more moving images in the exhibitions of the future. Integrating that technology thoughtfully into the larger intellectual program of a show is a tall order. The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot offers a start and plenty else besides.

-Craig Hanson

 ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

From The British Museum:

The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot
The British Museum, London, 24 May — 30 September 2012

Curated by John Curtis and Nigel Tallis

The history of the horse is the history of civilisation itself. The horse has had a revolutionary impact on ancient civilisations and this major exhibition explores the influence of horses in Middle Eastern history, from their domestication around 3,500 BC to the present day. Britain’s long equestrian tradition is examined from the introduction of the Arabian breed in the 18th century to present day sporting events such as Royal Ascot and the Olympic Games.

Important loans from the British Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Royal Armouries, as well as rare material from Saudi Arabia, will be seen alongside objects from the British Museum’s exceptional collection, including famous pieces such as the Standard of Ur and Achaemenid Persian reliefs. Supported by the Board of Trustees of the Saudi Equestrian Fund, the Layan Cultural Foundation and Juddmonte Farms. In association with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities. (more…)