Exhibitions Streamed to Cinemas- Cultural Loss or Gain?

Exhibitions Streamed to Cinemas- Cultural Loss or Gain?

Fast and Furious 6, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III – all of these films will be hitting our cinema screens in the next couple of months, captivating popcorn-eating audiences, and are set to send the twitter-sphere into a hubbub of excitable opinions. But alongside these much-anticipated films, Pompeii Live from The British Museum is sneaking into our cinemas too.

The 18th June will be the first live event ever screened from The British Museum, offering a private view of the exhibition, Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, with deals being made with Vue, Odeon and Picturehouse. The multidisciplinary exhibition will be translated onto the big screen through music, poetry, eyewitness accounts, live performances and, perhaps most notably, contributions from leading historians including Mary Beard and Giorgio Locatelli. The Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition professes to “have a unique focus, looking at the Roman home and the people who lived in these ill-fated cities” – “the first such major exhibition in London for almost 40 years.”

Is museum streaming taking away from the active experience?

All this sounds great, but surely the point of the museum experience is the activeness of viewing and the firsthand experience? By bringing such fascinating culture into our mainstream society are we setting ourselves up for a consequential decrease in museum visitors? For many, a quick trip to The British Museum is understandably off the cards – train fares can be expensive and for some I expect a family trip to a museum is just not worth arguing for. But we need to stop being so passive in our education, both culturally and generally. By making such viewings available, as a nation we are encouraging a submissive lifestyle where we watch others tell us about the things that we could be seeing or doing.

Don’t get me wrong; I am in no way condemning a rise in cultural attention and education. But, how significant is the screening of the exhibition likely to be in pricking the nations ears up to such significant cultural exhibitions? My guess is not likely. Unfortunately, society is captivated by the comical, the dramatic, the fantastical and the highly dramatised – none of which define Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The image of teenagers and students getting up on a Saturday morning and taking themselves to the overpriced cinema down the road to sit through a film which guides them around a museum is unrealistic and even more unlikely.

It’s a good idea, and, for those who are culturally motivated, it makes things a little more accessible. What I do wholeheartedly condemn is the idea that cinematic viewings of museum exhibitions replace the active museum experience.

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2 Responses to “Exhibitions Streamed to Cinemas- Cultural Loss or Gain?”

  1. Phil Grabsky

    Apr 27. 2013

    Dear Megan..I am the producer of Exhibition:Great Art on Screen. We just aired the Manet exhibition from the RA and June 27th we have Munch from Oslo. I totally agree with you: there is no better alternative that going to Pompeii or Herculaneum. Failing that, the exhibition – which is great. BUT there are many who can’t afford to come to London, or simply can’t for physical reasons or indeed many other reasons. I have had many emails from people around the world – and the UK – thanking us for giving them the opportunity to see art exhibitions they otherwise would have not been able to enjoy, learn from, be inspired by. There is no replica to standing in front of an actual painting – and we are trying to encourage people to go to galleries – but millions can’t – and that”s why these films are so valuable. TV sometimes fills this role but cinema is MUCH better. Munch from Oslo, Vermeer from the National Gallery and lots more in 2014….best wishes, Phil Grabsky

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  2. Harriet

    Jun 03. 2013

    Great article, and I totally agree that no way can you replicate the first-hand museum experience. I’m super keen to see the Pompeii one in the cinema though, because I can’t afford to go to London to see it. I also reckon it would be good for things like the David Bowie Is exhibition, which I am beyond desperate to see but has been sold out for ages – would give people a chance who missed out on the real thing to at least have a glimpse of the treasures!

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