Arty adventures at National Museum Cardiff this half term


paid collaboration with National Museum Cardiff

Usually when we go to National Museum Cardiff we spend the majority of our time in the natural history and evolution galleries — who doesn’t love the dinosaurs?! However, our visit today focused on the art galleries. The museum has one of Europe’s finest art collections with paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from artists including Wales’s Augustus and Gwen John and Sir Kyffin Williams; plus some of the world’s most famous painters including Monet, Van Goch, and Renoir.

I must admit my knowledge of art is very limited. As is my artistic talent. So it’s great to be able to learn more about art, and to let the professionals give my children some expert tuition, through the family-friendly workshops the museum runs during school holidays.

National Museum Cardiff

This week, the museum is running free creative workshops called Me and My Pet Portrait. Taking place at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm daily until Friday, the sessions start by introducing children to Rembrandt’s portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet. It’s a really dark work, painted on a black background with Catrina wearing black clothing, other than the white of her handkerchief and bonnet. Look carefully and there’s a parakeet in the painting too, his dark body only just visible.

Photography is not permitted on this painting so I’m unable to show you what it looks like – but I can show you the self-portraits my children created with their (imaginary) pets.

National Museum Cardiff

National Museum Cardiff

Like Rembrandt, the 15 or so children in the workshop used black paper as their canvas; and coloured chalks to draw with. I thought my eldest two did a great job of drawing themselves. Littlest just wanted a picture of Lego Batman, which I attempted to draw and he then promptly scribbled over. He was happy though and couldn’t wait to show his daddy his artwork that evening.

We also spent time in the museum’s new Who Decides? exhibition, which opened on Saturday 28th October and runs until 2nd September 2018.

Usually, the museum’s exhibitions are curated by the staff. However, for Who Decides? the museum’s staff worked with people with the charity The Wallich, letting people who are homeless and vulnerably housed choose which artworks should feature. They went into the museum’s vaults to explore the collections not currently on display to make their selections.

The result is an eclectic mix of paintings, sculptures, films, prints and drawings. My children were intrigued by Richard Long’s Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle although slightly spooked by Laura Ford’s life size sculpture Glory Glory (Hat and Horns).

The accompanying description for each art work details who chose it and why. It’s really lovely reading the different reasons and to see how regular people interpret and relate to art based on their own life experiences. You don’t have to have a degree in art history to have an opinion or response to a work of art.

The behind-the-scenes video footage gave a fascinating insight into how the project was put together and the people who selected the works.

Visitors can also have their say by voting on their favourite work to be placed on public display at the museum.

When I told this to my children, Little Man O jokingly offered up his portrait. “That’s far too important for a museum,” I told him. “It’s going to have pride of place on our fridge.”

Who Decides? runs until 2nd September 2018. Me and My Pet Portrait runs until Friday with sessions at 11.30am 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Book at the museum’s information desk. See the website for more information.

This Thursday 2nd November is After Dark at the Museum – a special late-night opening with interactive exhibits, torch-lit tours, and hands-on activities. See the website for more information.

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