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Ashmolean Museum and Gallery

The Ashmolean Museum and Gallery is situated in Oxford and for those of you who have never been it is a jewel of a place. Not surprisingly perhaps in such a wealthy city, the Ashmolean seems to punch far above it’s weight and often has really spectacular shows. The scale is small but the vision is excellent and the way the shows are curated and scheduled is intelligent and exciting. I went recently to find a small exhibition of Howard Hodgkin’s personal collection of Mughal art rubbing shoulders with a lovely little collection of images by ‘The Squinter’ Guercino (an odd coincidence for those who read my last blog as Hans Peter Feldman has added squints to found portraits). The conversation that this juxtaposition set up, of the Mughal and Italian artists but also the ghostly voice of Hodgkin’s own work was entrancing. Use of perspective, use of line, use of figuration and colour; the similarities and differences were fascinating.

I would urge anyone who lives between Birmingham and the South Coast to investigate travel to Oxford. It is extremely well served by buses and trains which can often be booked in advance very cheaply.

I suppose because I am hebridean and have to travel long distances to do anything involving anyone else I have a different attitude to travel, but I wish now that when I had lived on the mainland I hadn’t been so squeamish about travelling to see interesting things. I would never have thought, for instance, of travelling from Brighton to Edinburgh or Newcastle to see an exhibition, whereas now I recognise that some of these shows are a once in a lifetime experience and the British Isles are actually very small and easily traversed. A check on the museum’s website as well as that of MOMA should help you decide when to visit. Next up is an exhibition about the Qur’an at the Ash and Shezad Dawood at Moma. You might even be able to fit in a visit to the Pitt Rivers with it’s voodoo dolls and shrunken heads.

Can I also make a plea with this blog to all level 3 students to PLEASE put your work on the OCA website. There are very few level 3 students participating and yet you are where your fellow students are heading. It would be really useful for your peers to be able to see what you are doing and get a better idea of what a degree level course is in terms of skill level, commitment and workload. You really ought to be using the website anyway and uploading your work so that you can link up with other level 3s and crit each other’s work. Don’t hide your light – we all want to see your work and it is important for the degree course as a whole that it has a robust and energetic presence on the website. If you are a level 3 student reading this and you have a website, blog or flickr page, add the link here so we can have a look straight away and then please consider uploading the images onto the oca website as well.

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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10 thoughts on “Ashmolean Museum and Gallery

  • I love travelling and I love seeing exhibitions, yet I tend to think of it as an abroad thing, rather than the British Isles. Having said that though, last year we were stuck in Wolverhampton train station for two hours. I left my husband and children eating sweets from the vending machine in the waiting room and ventured out, determined to find the city gallery. I had never been to Wolverhampton before, but these kind of galleries look the same everywhere and it was easy to spot. I spent a happy hour and a half in there, which was much more interesting than sitting on an orange plastic seat listening to people talking on their mobiles.
    We are going to Cornwall this summer, so if anyone has good advice about galleries or museums there I would appreciate you sharing it. We will need to stop somewhere on the way back up to Edinburgh, so Oxford may be the perfect place. Thanks for detailing its delights.

    • Hi Olivia, re. Cornwall, if you are going to st. Ives, obviously you should go to the Tate but also seek out the Millennium Gallery, which shows extremely high quality work and has a friendly atmosphere. They also produce excellent catalogues.

  • I live in Oxford and as far as I am concerned the Ashmolean, epecially following its major renovation two years ago, is a gift to the whole city. The collections are wonderful, but also the way space and light in the new area has been used make it a real architectural delight. And at the top is an excellent rooftop restaurant as well. As Emma says it is indeed a jewel.
    To Olivia who is going to Cornwall – try the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Sadly it does not have the funding for renovation of the Ashmolean but it holds excellent exhibitions and also has plenty for children to enjoy on those wet Cornish afternoons. I have to confess to a particular interest in the RCM as it holds all the manuscripts of my father-in-law – Winston Graham who lived in Cornwall for many years and was author of ‘Poldark’ as well as many other novels. In addition, course, is the Tate in St. Ives which includes the Barbara Hepworth Museum – both well worth a visit.

  • Yes, the Ashmolean is a real gift that we’re all very proud of here in Oxford. Prior to becoming an OCA Textiles tutor, the Ashmolean was my former workplace for many years and it still feels like a second home to me. I hope to arrange a study visit there before long.

  • The refurbished Ashmolean is a detail to visit. I particularly like the windows from one gallery through to another so that the different eras or themes seem to reference each other. I am also fond of the Pitt Rivers Museum which is a great place to draw, as is Oxford Market.
    In Cornwall, I think the Eden Project is a great visit, not exactly a gallery, but it is an inspirational environment with some terrific sculptures. My favourites are the mad bacchanalian women in the undergrowth!

  • Olivia,
    There are so many Galleries to see in Cornwall it will be like a busman’s holiday.If you are going to St Ives there is an evening life drawing class at the St Ives School of Art in the Porthmeor Studios. Just the thing to do after a hard day sun bathing and surfing. Not to be missed is an exhibition of Laura Knight at the Penlee House Gallery in Penzance a rare opportunity to see the work of this well known artist who was part of the artists colony in Newlyn and later the official war artist at the Nuremberg Trials.

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