MGM 2008 - A Museum Of Me - Mike Tooby

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Mike Tooby has been the Director of Learning and Programmes at National Museums and Galleries Wales, since January 2000, where he overseas all direction of access, learning and displays and exhibitions. He was also founding curator of Tate St Ives.

A photo of a man.

Mike Tooby. Courtesy National Museums Wales

Is there an object or work of art that has inspired you, encouraged you to work in a different way or given you a great idea?

My first experience of how the aura of objects from past creativity lives into the present was as a volunteer on John and Briony Coles’ excavations on the Somerset Levels in the 1970s.

Donald Rodney’s 'X-Ray' installations made in Sheffield in the 1980s remain a touchstone for my understanding of contemporary art. He and they made me understand how objects could speak of individual experience and broad historical themes like slavery and racism, yet still provide the consolation of beauty.

A photo of a painting.

Britannia Hospital 2. 1988. By Donald Rodney ( 1961 – 1998). Oil Pastel on X-Ray 122 x 244cm. Collection Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield. © The Estate of Donald Rodney.

Can you name a person who has inspired you?

When I was a student volunteer at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, Robert Hopper came from Manchester to install a Peter Lanyon show.

an abstract painting of sheets of blue with a suggestion of a coastline in the distance

Peter Lanyon, Soaring Flight, 1960. Arts Council Collection, Hayward Gallery, London Shown at Scarborough Art Gallery in 2007.

A few days in Robert’s company, talking about the exhibition, about artists and museums, was such a contrast to what I was studying. It made me realise what being a curator could be about.

Robert Hopper (1946-1999) was director of the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust in West Yorkshire for 11 years. Through projects and exhibitions, he brought to Britain artists of great distinction from Europe and the United States.

Peter Lanyon was an artist of the St Ives School.

Which ideas or creations in your work, are you most proud of? This can be something really significant or quite minor.

The ‘Sea Fever’ fashion show on the roof at Tate St Ives organised by Andy Hughes, Lizzie Barker and Dave Davies with Surfers Against Sewage in 1994.

I was very proud to be the first speaker at the first opening of the first ‘pavilion’ for Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2003.

A photo of muslim dancers.

Muslim Festival celebrations at National Museum Cardiff - 2007. Courtesy National Museum Wales.

The opening of our Muslim festival exhibitions at National Museum Cardiff in 2007 was a very moving occasion, the result of many years of discussions, debates, opening doors and making friends.

Can you think of any current innovations (in science, technology, art etc.), which have had an impact on your life?

Email. I am hoping for the reintroduction of the practice of replying to letters received through a daily postbag.

A photo of a website.

Email - the way to communicate in the 21st century?

Tell us what you think. We would like you to use our simple Storymaker editing tool to . We will be selecting some of the most interesting examples and publishing them next to the expert’s views during MGM 2008.

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