BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2018

17 March - 28 October 2018 10am - 5pm


Sat 17 Mar – Sun 28 Oct 2018

Opening celebration Fri 16 Mar 6–9pm Find out more
Phyllida Barlow • Louise Bourgeois • Martin Creed • Alberto Giacometti • Diego Giacometti • Subodh Gupta • Eva Hesse • Jenny Holzer • Thomas Houseago • Matthew Day Jackson • Hans Josephsohn • Bharti Kher • Anna Maria Maiolino • Paul McCarthy • Gary McDonald • Fausto Melotti • Henry Moore • David Smith • Simon Starling • Ricky Swallow • André Thomkins • Will Thompson • William Turnbull • Mark Wallinger • David Zink Yi

‘BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2018’ is Hauser & Wirth gallery’s satirical museological presentation first made for Frieze London 2017. The exhibition recreates a fictional Bronze Age presentation from a forgotten museum. Conceived and originated by Dr. Neil Wenman in collaboration with Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, the exhibition focuses solely on works made of bronze or from the Bronze Age period. The show is comprised of artefacts on loan from regional museums and private collections nationwide, objects obtained from eBay, and sculptures by artists including modern masters Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, and Fausto Melotti, along with Phyllida Barlow’s bronze cast paint sticks, Subodh Gupta’s bronze Mona Lisa, a cast bronze fist by Martin Creed, and Mark Wallinger’s spectacles.

The artefacts and artworks are separated into six themes: Domestic Life, Decoration & Adornment, Fertility & the Body, Religion & Burial, Trade & Agriculture and War & Battle, mimicking the curatorial choices of historical museum exhibitions.

Contemporary works of art and historical artefacts are mischievously mixed with miscellaneous bronze items purchased from eBay. Masquerading as archaeological finds, these invite us to ponder how the significance of an object can be dictated by context. Moving away from the traditional white walls of an art gallery, the presentation challenges expectations and highlights the power of display.

Institutions that have loaned works and objects to ‘BRONZE AGE’ include: Bruton Museum, Somerset; Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, Shrewsbury; and David Roberts Art Collection, London. At Firstsite, objects have been incorporated from the ‘designated status’ collection of the Colchester and Ipswich Museums. A unique addition to the presentation at Firstsite is the Berryfield Mosaic (c. AD 150), which is located at the entrance of the exhibition. This mosaic masterpiece was discovered in Colchester in 1923 where Firstsite is now located, and is permanently installed within the gallery floor.

Says Professor Mary Beard: ‘I thought the playacting, whimsical nature of the project sounded like a bit of fun and while we’ve approached the presentation as a satire, it’s also a way to reinvigorate how people think about history, archaeology and museum display. It’s partly about the way we look. Who knows how and where inspiration strikes! I’m very keen on keeping alive our connection to the past and our conversation with it; and this project encapsulates that in a very accessible way.’

The exhibition has been generously supported by Hauser & Wirth, AB Fine Art Foundry, Coode Adams Firstsite Trust, Firstsite’s Collectors’ Group, The Finnis Scott Foundation and The Hervey Benham Charitable Trust.

Download an Audio Guide recorded by Mary Beard here (iTunes Podcast link)



Image: Bronze Head, Private Collection Northamptonshire, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth