After the delightful ‘Alice Kettle: the Garden of England’, the museum’s contemporary arts programme continues this autumn with one of Britain’s leading artists. Following the arrival of ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ here at Greenwich last year, we have invited Yinka Shonibare MBE to infiltrate Royal Museums Greenwich further, with a series of works that relate to Britain’s maritime past and stargazing. Dressed in Shonibare’s trademark Dutch-wax fabric, these works invite us to look at our collections with fresh eyes. The countdown has started to 18 September, the fast-approaching opening date of ‘Yinka Shonibare MBE at Greenwich’, and teams from across the museum have been beavering away in anticipation.
Our designers Anna and Joyce have created a striking visual identity for the exhibition, while our registrar Lisa has arranged the shipment of artworks from London, Yorkshire and New York – as I write this, Yinka’s pieces are converging towards Greenwich! During the summer, the Flamsteed House apartments at the Royal Observatory have been redisplayed with 17th and 18th century furniture to offer a suitable setting for a new commission from the artist, which deals with the house’s former identity as the domestic home of the Astronomer Royal. For the Queen’s House, Yinka has selected about 50 objects from the museum’s collection related to the deeds, loves and fame of Lord Nelson, to surround his own exploration of the admiral’s life. For the past few months, our conservators have been giving tender loving care to these objects, which are as varied as paintings and sculpture, drawings and caricatures, but also memorabilia, miniatures and jewellery. We want these objects to look their best once they come in close contact with Yinka’s vibrantly coloured mannequins and photographic tableaux. Last week, I went to the conservation studio to check on progress. Our Conservation technician Liz did a mock-up of the small cased objects , to ensure they are all pinned at the right place in relation to each other.
The works on paper are now all framed and mounted.
This drawing of Emma Hart (later Hamilton) by Richard Cosway was given a new lease of life, thanks to its new mount. See how lovely it looks now that it is framed, in the company of Friedrich Rehberg's prints of Emma Hamilton's attitudes.
A rarely displayed portrait of Frances Nelson is resting on an easel in the Frames Conservation studio, waiting to be transported to the Queen’s House.
The galleries there have been repainted a luscious red and a soft grey. All is ready to start the installation of the first objects tomorrow. Check later for updates here and on Twitter, #YinkaGreenwhich.