Archive for October 5th, 2010

What makes a good exhibition great? Monet at the Grand Palais

5 October 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

It’s something I’m sure most of us have in common. In our lives we’ve spent millions of slow footsteps dodging the digital camera-wielding bus tourists and the unenthusiastic schoolchildren led around by stressed-looking teachers and harassed tour guides. We remember some of them. Others fade quickly into a mist of ‘did I see that?’ But only sometimes do we stop to think more deeply about what captures our attention and what turns a collection of paintings and artefacts into a memorable exhibition.

Should we be guided along in a thematic or chronological sequence? Do we prefer to be left alone? Lots or little text? How much background do we need? And what about interactive touch screens? Audio guides? Introductory films?

It is, of course, predominantly a matter of personal taste. When I go to a museum, I’m searching for an elusive property: the space to engage with the subject matter physically, but also just the right amount of information to make up my own mind about the subject matter in front of me. Whether that makes me typical or not, I have no idea, but I know that sometimes a curator can get it so right that it leaves everyone – consciously or not – with the sense that they’ve been allowed to see something special.

The Claude Monet retrospective which opened at Paris’s Grand Palais on 22 September does just that. Read More