Since it opened in 1978 there has been a more or less continuous sequence of temporary exhibitions at Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery
The octagonal room we now call the Brian White Gallery was always regarded as our temporary exhibition space. Over the years it has hosted a wide range of content to complement our other visitor offerings in a programme designed to attract both our local population and visitors to the island.This page also offers a link to our past exhibitions listing which will be a springboard for exploring archival material relating to all our past exhibitions. The archive will continue to be developed as resource material is digitised and future exhibitions occur.
The Changing Face of Exhibitions
Over the years the exhibition programme has changed considerably in structure as well as content. This is a sign of healthy evolution, driven by a variety of factors ranging from available resources to changing visitor expectations. From the 1980s there were about half a dozen temporary exhibitions annually, each lasting for a month on average. They included touring exhibitions hired from external bodies like the UK Arts Council, exhibitions drawing on our own collections or those of local collectors, together with showcases for local talent like the bi-annual Schools Art and Crafts exhibition. These 'shows' were often interspersed with months where the space reverted to an art gallery exhibiting various selections from our own art collection.
Photography For All
Photographic exhibitions have been present in our programme from the outset and have included both locally sourced material and touring exhibitions like the popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The latter has become something of a fixture at the beginning our year and clearly attracts a regular local audience who complain loudly if we are unable to show it. Like so much else, the cost of hiring such exhibitions generally rises year on year and with our available budgets declining in real terms their continued presence in our programme becomes a challenge.
The Blockbuster Effect
There have always been major exhibitions highlighting groups of particular objects but the term 'blockbuster' became fashionable after the phenomenally popular 1972 Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition held in London. It established something of a trend for exhibitions which were unashamedly populist but involved a great commitment of resources for their creation. We were not immune to the 'blockbuster' effect and in some years there was a conscious decision to put extra resource and effort into a 'main' exhibition, often held in the summer months. Sometimes the extra resource required was mostly financial such as the funding necessary to bring together a group of Renoir's Guernsey paintings. Other exhibitions have required a great deal of staff time to research and prepare, such as our Guernsey Tomato and Sinking of the Stella exhibitions.
The resources required to stage such exhibitions led to a rethink about the time they are on show and the realisation that, given the small size of our staff and their other commitments, spending many months preparing something only shown for perhaps one month was unsustainable. In recent years the trend has been to hold fewer exhibitions but to stage them for longer periods. Now that we have the permanent Rona Cole Art Gallery there will probably be less emphasis on temporary art-based exhibitions.