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Oxford: A tale of two galleries

Oxford: A tale of two galleries

This Sunday a small group of students came with us to explore two of Oxford’s Art Galleries- Modern Art Oxford and Christ Church Picture Gallery.

Modern Art Oxford, founded in 1966 is a contemporary space presenting exhibitions by modern artists. We visited the day after a new exhibition opened ‘Lubaina Himid: Invisible Strategies’. Himid’s work is strikingly political, exploring race identity and colonialization from a poignant yet indirect angle. In the entrance to the gallery the artwork is framed by an artist’s statement- “Himid’s work challenges the stereotypical depictions of black figures in art history, foregrounding the contribution of the African diaspora to Western culture”.

The first work we encountered is ‘Freedom and Change’ (1984). According to the program ‘this appropriates and transforms the female figures from Picasso’s Two Women Running on the Beach(The Race), 1922, into black women, powerfully and humorously subverting one of the most canonical paintings in Western art history’.

After finding a whimsical phone box on St Algates we carried on to Christ Church Picture House!

Christ Church Picture Gallery is a private collection of paintings owned by Christ Church, Oxford. The college is known for it’s wealth and history and this gallery flamboyantly displayed both.

We walked around the painting collections. Displayed chronologically we walked through time starting with early fresco-style paintings of the Madonna and child before journeying into oil works, such as Caracci’s ‘Butcher’s Shop’. The guide excitedly informed us that people come from all over the world to see that particular painting.

Finally we entered the ‘Drawing in Red’ exhibition which features red chalk works through  the early 16th century including works by Michelangelo (a delicate study of muscles in the leg torn from the artist’s working notebook) and famous pieces by Maratti and Bernini.

It was interesting to be able to visit such different galleries in the same afternoon and be able to compare and contrast not only different styles of art but different approaches to displaying and appreciating art.