The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Emma Pybus, 12.12.2014
Engaging new audiences
The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne used Divine Bodies, an exhibition of old masters and contemporary works, to inspire a project with a group of young women aged between 16 and 24.

Divine Bodies was curated by the gallery’s National Gallery curatorial trainee and displayed European pre-1800 paintings with contemporary works by Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic and John Currin.

The group of young women recruited through the Space2 community arts space in central Newcastle did not usually visit galleries or cultural venues.

Professional photographer Nicola Maxwell led a number of sessions with the group, looking at the themes of idealisation and imperfection; allure and shame; and youth and ageing in relation to both male and female bodies that were represented in Divine Bodies.

She used Sherman’s Pink Robe series, Tom Hunters Rat in Bed, Sam Taylor–Johnson’s Pieta and Maciej Dakowicz’s Cardiff Street Scene as starting points for discussions.

The young people then created their own photographic responses to these themes, culminating with an exhibition of their work called I Am at the Laing Art Gallery and a launch event.

Emma Pybus is the corporate communications officer at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums