I curated the exhibition Coral: Something Rich and Strange, which took place at Manchester Museum from 29 November 2013 until 16 March 2014. The show, which was one of the outcomes of my three-year British Academy-funded research project ‘A Cultural History of Coral’, highlighted coral as a material, symbol and inspiration for artists, cultures and societies across the centuries, but also raised awareness of the importance of protecting marine habitats from climate change, overfishing and pollution.
The exhibition, which was funded by the Arts Council England and the Granada Foundation, juxtaposed Manchester Museum’s coral specimens, fossils and glass models of sea anemones with ethnographic objects, cultural artefacts, decorative art objects and artworks from different cultures around the globe. The cross-disciplinary display relied on objects from most of the Museum’s own collections – Zoology, Archaeology, Egyptology, Numismatics and Anthropology – but also drew on major loans from The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery. Other national and international institutions lending to the exhibition included The University of Manchester Library, The National Gallery, V&A, Pitt Rivers Museum, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Bowes Museum, Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Frac Franche-Comté, Georg Kargl Fine Arts and Hauser & Wirth.
The exhibition also featured commissions of new works from the internationally renowned artist Mark Dion and the Lancashire-based textile designer Karen Casper, as well as a large-scale community engagement project, Manchester’s very own Crochet Coral Reef.
Workshops and outreach sessions related to The Manchester Satellite Reef were held at Manchester Museum, the Gallery of Costume and, under the auspices of Manchester Museum’s ‘Health and Culture’ initiative, at Manchester Eye Hospital, Manchester Dental Hospital, Manchester Royal Infirmary and Trafford General Hospital Stroke Unit. Contributions to the reef were also sent from craft and conservation enthusiasts across the North West and as far afield as Germany, Italy and the US.
During its 3,5-months run the exhibition attracted almost 82,000 visitors.
To view a selection of events related to the exhibition, click here.
For more photographs of the exhibition space and the Private View, see here.
Twitter hashtag: #MMCoral.