Masterpiece London Programming | Serious Fun / Stones of Rome

Posted in Art Market, conferences (to attend) by Editor on June 12, 2022

In conjunction with this year’s Masterpiece London, which runs from 30 June to 6 July:

Serious Fun: The Masterpiece Museum Symposium
Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, Saturday, 2 July 2022

Unknown maker, candlestick, France, ca. 1745–49, gilt bronze and silvered bronze, 25 cm high (London: The Wallace Collection, F79).

Masterpiece London is delighted to host a morning of debate and discussion, co-organised by the Fair and the writer and critic Thomas Marks, to bring together preeminent museum curators and conservators with the leading figures in the art and antiques trade, with the aim of encouraging constructive discussion, networking and the exchange of knowledge and practical advice. Serious Fun is the seventh in a series of events that Masterpiece London launched in 2018—with recent online events focusing on conservation, artistic materials and the role of research in museums. This summer the Masterpiece Symposium returns to an in-person format at the Fair in London for the first time since 2019, with the focus turning to museums of places of pleasure, wonder, surprise—and even fun. The subject has been chosen to pay tribute to the late Philip Hewat-Jaboor, Chairman of Masterpiece London from 2012 to 2022, who consistently took delight in museum collections around the world and generously shared that joy with friends, colleagues, and the wider public.

It is a truism to describe museums as places of education but perhaps less common to celebrate how they ought to provide diversion too. Certainly, many great civic museums, and particularly those founded during the 19th century, once shared with the popular spectacles of the time the desire to entertain their audiences while pursuing their educational purposes (some Victorian museums had an ‘almost carnival atmosphere’, the late Giles Waterfield wrote). It is now sometimes assumed, however, that seriousness and levity cannot coexist in museums. But whyever not?

Over the course of a morning at Masterpiece London, experts will offer a range of perspectives on the role of leisure and pleasure in museums, exploring historical attempts to associate learning with enjoyment and considering what might be gained by doing so today. How have museums historically had fun? Could enjoyment be more central to how we discuss, design, and experience museums, and to what purpose? How can wonder or pleasure be fostered through collection displays, exhibitions, and other museum activities? As ever at the Masterpiece Symposium, attendees will be invited to participate in the discussion in Q&As with panellists and in break-out sessions during the course of the event—with the aim of sharing knowledge and ideas.


10.00  Registration and coffee

10.15. Panel Discussion: The Museum at Play
Moderated by Thomas Marks

• Dinah Casson | Museum and exhibition designer, and co-founder, Casson Mann
• Jane Munro | Keeper of Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
• Ben Street | Art historian, lecturer, and writer (How to Enjoy Art; How to Be an Art Rebel)

This discussion will focus on the current situation in museums, exploring how they might enable and harness enjoyment among their audiences. The conversation will explore how museum architecture, exhibitions, and displays succeed in kindling imaginative wonder; surprise, wit, even comedy (or comic art) as modes of engagement; how artist interventions might provoke meaningful diversion; and the balance between encouraging delight and offering interpretation in the display of works of art.

11.15  Coffee Break

11.30  Break-out Sessions

Attendees will be invited to join small discussion groups (6–8 people) for conversation, drawing on their own ideas and experience, and prompted by the first panel discussion and wider theme of the symposium.

12.00  Panel Discussion: Historical Entertainments
Moderated by Thomas Marks

• Helen Dorey | Deputy Director and Inspectress, Sir John Soane’s Museum
• Ella Ravilious | Architecture and Design, Victoria & Albert Museum
• Mark Westgarth | Associate Professor in Art History and Museum Studies, University of Leeds

This discussion will explore how museums have historically sought to enlist types of enjoyment as a mode of fulfilling their wider mission. It will encompass the relationship between leisure and education in Victorian civic museums, including the South Kensington Museum; how surprise and wonder have historically played a role in museum architecture and display, such as at Sir John Soane’s Museum; early attempts to ‘activate’ collections; and the emergence of displays, tours and other activities aimed at children. How might we borrow from such institutional legacies to the benefit of the 21st-century museum?

Many Enfilade readers will also find this session on Friday, 1 July interesting:

Stones of Rome
Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, 1 July 2022, 12.30

Adriano Aymonino is Programme Director of the MA in the Art Market and the History of Collecting at the University of Buckingham. He has curated several exhibitions, including Drawn from the Antique: Artists and the Classical Ideal. His book Enlightened Eclecticism was published by Yale University Press in June 2021, and he is currently working on a revised edition of Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny’s Taste and the Antique (2022). He is also associate editor of the Journal of the History of Collections.

Silvia Davoli specializes in the history of collections and patronage with particular focus on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is a research associate at Oxford University and Curator at Strawberry Hill House (the Horace Walpole Collection). Silvia is also associate editor of the Journal of the History of Collections.

Fabio Barry studied architecture at the University of Cambridge (MA, Dip Arch), and briefly practiced before receiving his PhD in art history from Columbia University. He has taught at the University of St. Andrews and Stanford University, and is currently Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellow at The Centre for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. His research has often concentrated on art in Rome, particularly Baroque architecture, but recent publications have ranged farther afield and dwell on medieval and antique art, especially sculpture. An ongoing concern has been the imagery of marble in the visual arts and literature, especially the evocative qualities of the medium before the era of mass production distanced it from the realm of nature and myth. His book Painting in Stone Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment was published by Yale University Press in 2020, awarded the 2021 PROSE Award in Architecture and Urban Studies by the Association of American Publishers, and is currently shortlisted for the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

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