Have you ever stared into the chaotic depths of Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles and visualised its abstract lines as LEGO pieces?
Karen Vincent and her children certainly have, and they brought their vision to life with a tiny, plastic recreation of the original.
The National Gallery of Australia has been encouraging art-lovers to get creative in recent weeks with the Stay Home Challenge, an invitation to reimagine works from the national collection with a decidedly at-home feel. Participants then share via social media using the tags #BetweenArtandQuarantine, #MuseumFromHome and #NationalGalleryAus.
“We didn’t do a callout in the beginning,” says NGA Social Media Manager Keren Nicholson. “People started using the collection and it was popping up all over Twitter. The Sidney Nolan especially is so excellent.”
The idea behind the challenge is to recreate an iconic artwork using three objects from around the house. Some participants are adhering strictly to the three-object rule, while others are bending the rules to suit their own creative vision. Regardless, the process has resulted in stunning and often humorous creations.
“There is Joan Miró’s Paysage,” says Nicholson. “A surrealist work – a dreamscape – and someone has recreated it with an egg and a Pringle crisp. A couple who are actually artists themselves did Audrey Flack’s Jolie Madame and it is so outstanding. So much effort has gone into it. It’s quite magical.”
The challenge has been circulating around the world’s museums. The Getty, The Rijksmuseum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art are among the institutions getting behind the idea, originally inspired by the Instagram account Between Art and Quarantine.
“It’s such a nice thing to do at home,” says Nicholson. “People feel they’re connected to us without actually having to come into the building. There is so much love for the works in our collection and people are using this opportunity to share their love and their connection.”The challenge arrives against the backdrop of COVID-19, with the pandemic crisis forcing cultural institutions around the world to adapt to a vastly different relationship with their audiences.
According to Nicholson, it’s both a challenge and an opportunity for the National Gallery.
“I think everyone is doing a really great job staying connected. We’re talking even more often, having huge all-staff meetings online. Sometimes there are 130, 150 people all at once sharing what they’re doing.
“It’s communication at its best. We’re all working together. We know the conservation teams are still on the ground, still in the building, and they’re letting me know what they’re up to. Everybody is writing and making videos. It’s a nice way for the Gallery to become digital. It’s changing everyone’s focus. It’ll help us to have digital as our priority going forward even as we reopen.”
Part of that shift into the digital sphere means diving into the gallery’s past and pulling out fascinating tidbits for art lovers to explore. It also means devising all-new content and programs that are built for online engagement.
“Now, the website homepage has been completely refreshed. The blog, all of our podcasts and video content is all really accessible which is great. All the exhibitions that are on currently, we have online galleries set up now for people to learn and enjoy that work.”
Explore the National Gallery of Australia online at nga.gov.au.