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Creating the Exhibition Space for William Blake Exhibition at Tate Britain

10 October 2019 14:09

The William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain is a huge undertaking, with gallery upon gallery of Blake's artwork. And ingeniously there is even a nod to his humble beginnings, with the re-creation of the small domestic room that served as Blake's first gallery in 1809.

What strikes you most as you enter the exhibition is the iconic Albion Rose set against a stark navy wall. Your eye is drawn immediately to the etching and then moves to the surroundings of burgundy and displays of art that demand attention.

As you walk through the exhibition you'll see the artwork displayed chronologically on different coloured walls, sometimes on plinths, sometimes in book-like frames, sometimes as video, and sometimes as vast dramatic wall hangings. Blake's first recreated gallery is particularly humbling with its Ogee skirting board and simple dado rail. The authentic sash windows are back lit letting light flood the small space, and the aged floor boards help to transport you back to the past. Blake could never have imagined the success of his artwork back in the 1800's, but how wonderful to be able to catch a glimpse of the room above the hosiery shop that Blake first invited society to share in his paintings.

What Did MC Designers Do?

As with all MC Designers projects the success relies on understanding the gallery's vision for the exhibition, what needs to be achieved, and meticulous planning.

For the William Blake display the gallery walls were moved and new ones created.The stunning focal wall that the public first encounter was carefully constructed with steel posts, mesh, ply and plasterboard for safety as well as for impact.

Plinths and frames were also built in accordance with the curator's specification. Finishing the AV wall could not be completed until the projector was in position. Then the area in which the image was to be displayed was marked on the freshly painted burgundy wall, and then painted grey.

Creating Blake's 1809 gallery was challenging as MC Designers had to estimate the footfall that this part of the exhibition would have because the area was stepped into. Therefore a slope had to be made that blended perfectly with the floor, and yet could withstand the significant amount of traffic the was anticipated for the exhibition. The slope was made from steel and then finished with distressed oak boards to match existing to continue the period feel. A non-slip strip was also laid.

Attention to detail was exceptionally important to ensure that the room felt like one from the early 1800's.  To facilitate this Ogee skirting was used, a period dado rail put up, and the sash windows were constructed to the same style as those of the early 19th Century. Walking into the room helps to create a completely different ambience from the rest of the exhibition (which was the curator's desire), and momentarily the visitor is transported to Blake's first exhibition.

Creating Blake's exhibition from the gallery's conception was a demanding project, but MC Designers were able to complete the project within the time allotted, and to the required specification. The results enable the exhibition's visitor to experience Blake's paintings and drawings at their very best and without aesthetic distractions.

To find out more about MC Designer's behind the scenes work to provide the backdrop for the William Blake exhibition please view our Case Study.