Antony Gormley Relaxed Opening: Sam Ahern
I was lucky enough to be invited to a relaxed opening of the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy back in November 2019. This was the first my relaxed opening for an exhibition that I’d been to. I had gone to other events like Tate Lates, so this was something of interest to me.
As an artist, I like going to see exhibitions round London, but this is normally met with crowds of people. Navigating your way round an exhibition can sometimes be difficult and if like me, you struggle with directions and spatial awareness then it can be tricky to focus and enjoy the work.
The beauty of a relaxed opening is that there are no crowds and you’re able to take in the exhibition at your own pace within the allotted time (most relaxed openings are an hour – plus its free!). Along with the visual story, guide to the exhibition and sensory map, (a map that explains if there are any senses that are going to be heightened during the exhibition/gallery visit such as smell, touch, light and noise) this made my experience of Gormley’s exhibition much easier enjoy.
Gormley’s exhibition was the perfect example for the use of the sensory map, as it was quite a sensory heavy exhibition. Nearly all of the work was installations and had to be interacted with in some way or another. As I enjoy installation-based work, I had a lot of fun trying to manoeuvre my way in and around some of the pieces. One of my favourite pieces (‘Host’, 2019) that was located in one of the last rooms, was filled with clay and Atlantic water. This was a relaxing piece of work as no one was allowed to enter, so instead all one had to simply do, was look. Another was ‘Body and Fruit’ (1991/93) which was 2 massive sculptures made from cast iron suspended from the ceiling.
To those who haven’t been to the RA before, it’s quite a tricky place to navigate, (there are 3 floors and 2 entrances), but there are plenty of staff on hand to take you to where you to go or answer any questions. Maps and other visual aids, are provided and this is really helpful for someone to orientate themselves getting to and during the exhibition. During the exhibition, if you want to have a time-out, there is a break-out space that will be located somewhere near the exhibition.
If you decide to go to a relaxed opening there will be a visual story either on the website, or can be sent to you before you arrive, this is a good opportunity for you to familiarise yourself before you go. It shows you what the gallery rooms look like (and some of the work) as well as members of staff, exterior and entrance to the gallery. For the ‘Picasso and Paper’ exhibition, which is already underway, there will be a relaxed opening on the 22nd March. I would definitely suggest going to this if you want to have a trial run of a relaxed opening and get to see some extraordinary pieces of art.
You can find out more about the Relaxed Opening for ‘Picasso and Paper’ at the Royal Academy of Arts on 22nd March here – https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/relaxed-opening-of-picasso-and-paper-autism-neurodiverse-access
With thanks to Sam and Ambitious About Autism for this blog.