Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The National Gallery - An American Experiment Exhibition - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London, thank you for your continued support for disability access and awareness. Today's post is the first in a two-part series on The National Gallery and, in particular, one of its current exhibitions - 'An American Experiment: George Bellows and The Ashcan Painters'.

I recently visited this exhibition and was amazed by the rich colours and unique style of the artists. The exhibition is part of the National's attempt to showcase American art in the UK. This particular exhibition consists of 12 paintings, never before seen in the UK.

X7314 George Bellows, The Big Dory, 1913, Copyright New Britain Museum of American Art, Harriett Russell Stanley Fund 1944.21. Photo: Alex Morganti

Over half of the paintings in An American Experiment are by George Bellows, the other artists include, William Glackens, George Luks, John Sloan and Robert Henri. The paintings portray landscapes, urban scenes and portraits, all from the beginning of the 20th Century in America.

The National is free to visit and this particular exhibition is also free. The gallery is open from 10am-6pm daily with a late night on Fridays until 9pm. An American Experiment is in Room 1, just past the gift shop that is definitely worth a stop off for postcards of these paintings.

If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, the gallery and exhibition are definitely accessible. Although the main entrance to The National, that is on Trafalgar Square, has steps, there is another entrance just next to it called The Getty entrance. This has a gentle slope up to it and a lift inside to take you to the entrance level. Once inside, there is a cafe to the right that is completely accessible. Along the walkway to the left is an accessible toilet and the lifts up to the exhibition floors.

If you are a blue badge holder, you can pre-book a parking space just behind the gallery on Orange Street by calling, 0207 747 2854.

x7307 George Bellows, North River, 1908, Copyright Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund 1909.2

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the gallery and especially An American Experiment - it certainly opened my eyes to some of the art being produced in America at the beginning of the 20th Century and to a relatively unknown group of artists here in the UK. The exhibition is open until May 30 2011.

In part 2 of this series there will be an interview with the exhibition's curator who will explain more about the paintings, artists and how the exhibition came together. Please visit again tomorrow to see what was said.

Access London has also been fortunate enough to interview 2 people from the education, access and information departments at the gallery, here's what they had to say....

AL: Who are you and what is your role at The National Gallery?
MB: My name is Miranda Baxter and I am the interim Access Officer at the National Gallery, situated within the education department. My colleague and I will share this wonderful opportunity to respond to your questions about access at the National Gallery.
My role as Access Officer is to collaborate with other departments across the gallery, like information, with whom I work very closely to ensure that the quality of visitor experience at the National Gallery continues to be delivered on all levels. In education specifically I organise a variety of BSL and BSL-interpreted talks about paintings and exhibitions at the gallery. Often I work with an adult learning team to design events that resonate cohesively and thematically with the other areas of educational and interpretive provision. I also organise description-based sessions called Art Through Words for Blind and Partially-Sighted Visitors on the last Saturday of every month. Each session focuses on one painting and participants are provided with high quality prints, including close-ups of interesting details. A specially trained educator provides a highly descriptive narrative of the painting, which is further enhanced by multi-sensory elements such as, poetry, story-telling, music and handling objects, as well as lively discussions. The session finishes with a visit to the gallery to see the painting in situ.
CM: My name is Chris Morton and I am the Senior Information Manager at The National Gallery. The Information Department's first responsibility is to provide exceptional service to all our visitors, by offering a warm, professional welcome, doing all we can to make sure they have a successful visit and a positive, enjoyable experience. Information staff are the first point of contact for many visitors, offering help, advice and information on all aspects of The National Gallery, whether navigating the building, exploring the collection or finding out about our huge range of exhibitions, events and activities.

AL: Can you briefly explain how the gallery is accessible to those with mobility problems/disabilities?
CM: The National Gallery provides access and assistance, where possible, to all visitors. The gallery consists of 2 buildings, both of which have level access. Wheelchairs, folding chairs, large-print labels, braille descriptions and large-print descriptions are available for key paintings, as well as audio guides (free for visually impaired visitors) and induction loops; water bowls are available for assistance dogs. The gallery also provides a parking space for Blue Badge Holders which can be booked in advance by contacting the Duty Manager's Office on 020 7747 2854. The gallery also offers a variety of events and lectures for deaf and visually impaired visitors, as my colleague Miranda mentioned above.

AL: Do you have a current exhibition on, available to those with disabilities?
NG: The main temporary exhibition is Jan Gossaert's Renaissance. Please see the gallery's website for further details of current free exhibitions and forthcoming exhibitions at the gallery

AL: Do you have any concessions for disabled visitors and/or their carers?
NG: Disabled visitors are entitled to a concession ticket to paid exhibitions and accompanying carers have free entry. The concession price for Jan Gossaert's Renaissance is £9 and there is a Tuesday afternoon offer from 2.30pm where all visitors entitled to a concession can purchase £5 entry.

AL: Can you sum up in 5 words The National Gallery experience?
NG: Eminent, Elegant, Inspiring, Inclusive and Educational

Access London would like to offer a huge thanks to both Miranda Baxter and Chris Morton for taking the time to answer our questions.

Please feel free to leave a comment, follow the blog and help to spread the word on disability access and awareness. Don't forget tomorrow's post with the curator of An American Experiment.

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