Exeter museum to explore Devon's links with slave trade
Simon Stephens, 05.12.2019
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery commissions artist Joy Gregory
Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) has commissioned Joy Gregory to create an artwork for an exhibition opening next year on the transatlantic slave trade.
The exhibition is part of a wider programme in 2020 that will see RAMM use its collections to ask difficult questions and explore hidden stories. Untold Stories will feature a series of exhibitions, events, artist commissions and other activities that are also designed to give a voice to neglected communities.
Gregory, whose work is held by museums such as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, will develop the artwork by looking at the collection and working with curators, the advisory panel for the exhibition and the local community. The artist’s practice focuses on social and political issues, with a particular emphasis on cultural differences in contemporary society.
"My approach as an artist is to spend time observing, reflecting and thinking about connections and elements that will resonate with those most likely to encounter the finished work," Gregory said. “I have started the commission by spending time in Exeter exploring the town, meeting people as well as reflecting on the exhibitions, displays, collections and museum visitors."
Other activities in the Untold Stories programme include an exhibition about the men, women and children who made Devon lace, a project focused on RAMM’s LGBTQ+ connections, and a photography show capturing the stories of 100 women who were pioneers in their particular fields.
“The Untold Stories programme is something that we have been thinking about and planning for some years,” said Julien Parsons, the senior collections officer and content lead at RAMM. “We are seeing a shift in people’s attitudes about what museums can and should do. People have high expectations of RAMM and they expect us to be relevant. We hope that the programme will be challenging but we want to bring the audience with us on the journey.”
The exhibition on the transatlantic slave trade, which will open in October 2020, will explore how the impact of the transatlantic slave trade can still be seen in Devon and Exeter today. Alongside the exhibition, RAMM will develop a piece of work capturing people’s responses to Portrait of an African, an artwork held in its collections since 1943. It was painted in around 1758 and is believed to be of British composer, actor, and writer Ignatius Sancho.