Magazine article The Middle East

A 20th Century Time Machine

Magazine article The Middle East

A 20th Century Time Machine

Article excerpt

An exhibition at the British Museum blends the old and the new with some startling results.

In hundreds of central London locations, including scores of underground stations across the city, a striking poster advertises an exhibition, Time Machine - Ancient Egypt and Contemporary Art - currently being staged at The British Museum. The poster depicts a spectacular golden coloured sand sculpture, snaking across the floor of the British Museum's Egyptian Sculpture Gallery towards the head and torso of a centuries old statue excavated in Upper Egypt decades ago. Don't bother to look for the sand sculpture if you visit the exhibition - it isn't there. But, as James Putnam of the British Museum's Department of Egyptian Antiquities and curator of the Time Machine exhibition, explained, the absence of the most widely publicised piece in the show is totally in keeping with its creator's belief in the expression of art as a transient thing. "Volunteers helped carry 30 tons of sand into the gallery where, overnight, it was patted into shape to create the sand sculpture you see on the poster", Putnam revealed. Then, following a special showing of the piece when numerous publicity photographs were taken, the sculpture was dismantled. The sand sculpture's creator, Andy Goldsworthy, explains: "The project was originally turned down because it would have restricted access to the room. James Putnam contacted me later and suggested that we make the work for a day, photograph it, then remove it, to be represented in the exhibition as a memory. I found this a fascinating idea and one that would make the work stronger. That something was there, but has gone, touches on the relationship between an object and its origin. To think beyond the object to what we cannot see."

It may seem a somewhat unorthodox concept but Time Machine is an unorthodox exhibition. Staged alongside the British Museum's collection of Egyptian antiquities it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what part any particular piece of Time Machine art has to play. That the objects are labelled with little more than the name of the artist helps matters not at all.

Approaching the British Museum one can not fail to be impressed by the giant face sculpture which appears on the carefully manicured lawns outside the main entrance. Inspired by a fragment of a colossal head found near the ruins of Heliopolis, the work, by sculptor Igor Mitoraj, attracted the attention of all passers by. The 12 contemporary artists invited by the British Museum to participate in Time Machine were, it was felt, capable of expressing particular qualities of Egyptian art without drawing directly on Egyptian images. The Mitoraj sculpture certainly suggested ancient Egypt to me. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.