Art and Exhibitions interviews

Here are some interviews about art and museum exhibitions across Europe I conducted for EURadioNantes.

Richard O’Brien meets Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, curator of the Musée de Cluny.

As the curator of France’s national Museum of the Middle Ages, it’s Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye’s task to bring the past to life, and occasionally, to use it to cast a light on the issues of the present day. The museum’s current exhibition, in life in medieval Croatia, illustrates a community of artistic exchange which adds to our understanding of the period’s international culture; particularly relevant when such questions of exchange are back on the table, as the country joins the European community. An upcoming show, on Ancient Near Eastern games, demonstrates the continuity of pastimes in past times. The museum constantly stresses the renovating element of the Middle Ages – so often overlooked – and has itself recently undertaken a renovation of its best-known work, the ‘Lady and the Unicorn’ tapestries. Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye explains the process of conserving such a crucial historical artefact; but even when cleaning the surface of the tapestry, the life of the past is still at a distance. Here Elisabeth discusses with Richard the historical event she would most like to have been present for, to see the citizens of medieval Paris in all their joyous, leaping life.


Richard O’Brien meets Mar Dixon, organiser of the #AskACurator social media event

Even for those of us who love museums, sometimes it can seem like artefacts are acquired and preserved and exhibitions are organised behind closed doors. As visitors, we all have nagging questions ; how do you really know what dinosaurs looked like ? Whose job is it to reconstruct Ming vases ? How do you clean a Roman coin ? Mar Dixon organised Ask A Curator Day to answer just these questions. Through a Twitter hashtag, museum punters are put in direct contact with the staff who prepare collections and exhibitions for the general public in institutions all around the world. Mar explains how this can be beneficial for curators themselves as well as ordinary museumgoers. The results of her enquiries are available on her website,


Richard O’Brien meets Dr Tobias G Natter, to discuss the exhibition ‘Naked Men’ at Vienna’s Leopold Museum.

Long before Hemingway took Fitzgerald to the Louvre’s Greek sculpture galleries to reassure his fellow writer about the size of his Gatsby, our culture has had a troubled relation to the depiction of the naked male form in art. Now the Leopold Museum in Vienna has assembled an exhibition to rectify the balance, presenting solely images and sculptures of naked men from the Enlightenment to the present day. Richard O’Brien speaks to curator Dr Tobias G Natter, to find out how the public perception of the male anatomy has changed throughout artistic history, and to discuss the attitudes which, among other things, his exhibition is helping to expose.


Richard O’Brien meets Colin Harrison, curator at Oxford’s Ashmolean Musuem

The Ashmolean Museum holds the world’s largest collection of artefacts relating to Edward Lear, the famous 19th century nonsense poet who was also a talented ornithological painter. When curator Colin Harrison realised no other museum had commissioned an exhibition to celebrate the bicentenary of Lear’s birth, he sprang into action, putting together a show at the last minute, mostly from private loans. He spoke to Richard O’Brien about the challenges and pleasures that the task provided. Or in other words:

There was a curator called Colin

Who heard the Oxonian bells tollin’

‘There’s no show about Lear?

Well, we’d best have it here!’

Said that lover of nonsense, old Colin.


Richard O’Brien meets Ian Hunter, from the Littoral Arts Trust

In 1937, the Nazi government of Germany staged an exhibition in Munich. The theme: entartete Kunst, translated as ‘degenerate art’. Ian Hunter, director of British arts charity the Littoral Arts Trust, stresses the importance of the works and the artists the Nazis attempted to suppress for the development of European art; although they were only grouped together by their censors, their shared rejection of the classicist purity of form so valued by a party obsessed by the idea of Aryan perfection was at once deeply troubling and inspirational, depending on where you stood. One artist forced to leave his homeland as a result of a purge that had as much to do with aesthetic as with political concerns was Kurt Schwitters; his final Merzbau installation in Cumbria, in the North of England, already serves, in its fragmentary, isolated nature, as a memorial to the potential artistic future that the Nazis attempted to destroy. But Ian Hunter wants to create a more permanent, and more general, memorial in the beautiful landscape of the Lake District to the generation of artists who, in their iconoclastic originality, showed most clearly the capacity of creativity to resist the forces of evil.


Richard O’Brien meets Andy Ellis, from the Public Catalogue Foundation.

Every British citizen owns over 200,000 oil paintings; but that doesn’t mean you’ll find them hanging in an ordinary home. In museums, libraries, schools and police stations across the UK there is a huge collection of publicly owned art, and over the last decade Andy Ellis has been tirelessly working to photograph and digitise every holding for the ‘Your Paintings’ project. It’s a mammoth undertaking, but the outcome will be a world first; complete online access to an entire national art corpus. Here Andy discusses the project’s genesis, how his team went about their task, and his plans for the future of ‘Your Paintings’. You can look at the paintings here, and if you’re British, you should, because you literally own them:


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