About Night in the Museum: Ryan Gander Curates the Arts Council Collection

When I look at sculptures of the human figure I am frequently left thinking of all the things that they’ve seen. This is the world of the silent onlooker.

- Ryan Gander

Curated by leading British artist Ryan Gander, this major touring exhibition offered a unique view of the Arts Council Collection in its seventieth anniversary year.

As an artist, Gander is known for avoiding a recognisable style, preferring to work with many different materials to explore new approaches to art. For Night in the Museum, Gander positioned a range of figurative sculptures to gaze at artworks featuring the colour blue – a colour which is important in Gander’s work, and which for him represents the abstract ideas often found in modern and contemporary art. The figures contemplated a wide selection of post-war British art encompassing different styles and periods. In presenting works in this unusual way, Gander disrupted the role of the curator as a mediator between art and the public, inviting us to look beyond traditional themes and histories.

Night in the Museum represented the work of over thirty artists including Don Brown, Angela Bulloch, Patrick Caulfield, Jacob Epstein, Liam Gillick, Roger Hiorns, David Hockney, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Kerry Stewart, and Rebecca Warren. Also on public display for the first time was Ryan Gander’s commission for the Arts Council Collection, As old as time itself, slept alone (2015-16) – in which Gander re-imagined Edgar Degas’ famous work The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer (1880-81) in different scenarios and stages in life.

Night in the Museum, Ryan Gander Curates the Arts Council Collection, 2016 (installation view). Photo © Jonty Wilde
Garth Evans, Blue No. 30 (1964) observed by Kerry Stewart, Untitled (Lucy) (1996), Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artists 2016. Photo Anna Arca

Ryan Gander is one of the most innovative and exciting artists working in the UK today

- Jill Constantine, Head of the Arts Council Collection