Until 1st June (to be confirmed)
Showing online throughout May, The Unseen Masterpiece is an Instagram-friendly ‘exhibition that isn’t an exhibition’. Every new weekday sees the addition of a different artwork that has a connection to the previous day – a blossoming exhibition that you can return to afresh each day. All featured artists have a connection to or have exhibited at Ingleby Gallery in its 22-year lifespan. This includes new works from currently postponed exhibitions. The exhibition also takes place on the gallery website as a scrolling hub page; its title takes its reference from Le Chef-d’oevre Inconnu (The Unknown Masterpiece), an 1831 short story by Honoré de Balzac, beloved by high-profile French artists since its publication.
Described as ‘a daily exhibition of artworks that no-one will see, of works that will never be together’, a subtle theme emerges of things that exist despite not being seen. This creates a slightly surreal, slightly playful, but mostly poetic tone and with a beautifully low-key nostalgia that fits just fine with the lockdown mood while we wait for better days to come.
The exhibition begins with the Instagram post: ‘Part 1. The sequence begins where we left off – with Marine Hugonnier, the artist whose exhibition closed prematurely at the Gallery in Edinburgh a few weeks ago’. Towards Tomorrow (2001) is an image of the Bering Strait, taken across the international dateline, ‘to a place where it is always tomorrow’.
All the artworks here are accompanied by interpretational text and enough background to get your teeth into. Explore a little further on the Gallery website and you’ll find a virtual library of information on each featured artist. You can also sign up for an email summary of each week’s featured artworks with bonus new commissioned film from one of the featured artists’ studios in lockdown. Join the mailing list here
So far, The Unseen Masterpiece has revealed gems from Peter Doig, Craigie Atchison, Howard Hodgkin and Anya Gallaccio. Katie Paterson’s series of ‘unrealisable artworks’ also features. Paterson was the last artist to contribute to the Ingleby billboard which is still on view at the gallery’s old site in Calton Road. Paterson also suffered an early closure of her exhibition at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in March.
This is an inspiring approach to online curation. It can reach a far wider audience (it has featured in a couple of round-ups of international online exhibitions this month). Whilst making good use of the visual power of Instagram, plus the obligatory hashtags, we are encouraged perhaps to view the works in a different context. As each work connects with the previous it throws up new forms of inspiration and perspective.
In posting a new image over time, this style of exhibition helps you really to get to grips with the artworks and further explore the artist online. Memories and personal stories of Edinburgh artists also bring alive previous exhibitions at the Gallery – as noted in the Instagram comments. I’m excited to see what pops up next, and why. How will the exhibition conclude its theme?
Revealing a work of art daily lends a ponderous pace to the exhibition, much like the way you might stand in front of your decided favourite in a real-space exhibition and truly sink into it whilst absorbing all that is related to the work and the artist. Lockdown is, for some, a standstill and, for others, an increase in workload and stress. Either way, we are lulled into the benefits of a slower online pace in a slumbering world without traffic noise and human bustle.
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