The Culture24 Year in Review: culture bosses and museum directors choose the best of 2009

By Culture24 Staff | 23 December 2009
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Andrea Nixon
Tate Liverpool
"The Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. The show really put Cloud Gate, which I just had seen in Millennium Park in Chicago, into context for me. I find his way of working with space so amazing for an audience - his work excites people by letting them marvel and discover."

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Ben Bradshaw
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
"Richard Long's Heaven and Earth at Tate Britain.

His work successfully merges art and the environment in a unique and thoughtful way, capturing the stillness and beauty of the landscape in a way that is both mysterious and totally accessible.

His expressions of nature, and the relationships between distance, measurement and movement, made for a compelling exhibit, made up of 80 individual pieces – including a large-scale mud wall and new photography documenting his love of nature.

As someone who also enjoys long walks through the countryside, particularly in the South-West, I found this exhibition both inspiring and calming, offering everyone a chance to see our environment in a new way."

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Martin Creed
2001 Turner Prize winner
"Probably Jeff Koons at the Serpentine. I liked the brightness of it."

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Margaret Hodge
Culture Minister
"The Staffordshire Hoard, which I saw – and had the very rare privilege of actually handling – at the British Museum.

Not only does the UK's largest ever haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure capture the imagination and excitement of metal detectorists across the country, but it also appeals to people of all ages who are curious about our history.

By showing the Hoard, the British Museum allowed us to glimpse briefly our own shared past, and to learn from and understand physical objects from the Saxon period.

My experience is that people do care passionately about history – especially when it relates directly to where they live. A must-see for people of all ages."

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Nigel Spicer, Wedgwood Museum
Art Fund Prize winners
"I greatly enjoyed A Duck for Mr Darwin at the Baltic in Gateshead.

With Josiah Wedgwood's grandson, Charles Darwin, being the focus of many celebratory events in museums I felt that the Baltic did something completely from leftfield and that certainly put a smile on my face.

I’ll remember the tortoises for a long time – anyone else who visited the exhibition will certainly know what I mean…"

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Rachel Metcalfe and Sheila Dixon
The Bowes Museum
Sheila: "Rach and I both enjoyed a trip to the Great North Museum (the former Hancock Museum) in Newcastle when it opened in May. We were really impressed by the whole makeover, and the stunning interactives. We had great fun, including writing our names on a virtual brick on a visual of Hadrian's Wall.

I also enjoyed the Norman Cornish exhibition at Newcastle University’s Baring Wing Gallery, although I think it finishes on Christmas Eve. Cornish was 90 earlier this year, and this exhibition is a brilliant account of his life's work."

Rachel: "Toy Tales here at the Bowes – whenever you went into the gallery, at whatever time of day, it was always buzzing. Kids were playing with the interactive elements, watching the videos and telling us about their favourite exhibits on the post-its board."

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Rachel Feldberg
Ilkley Literature Festival
"Interplay Theatre Company's powerful, atmospheric adaptation of Mary Webb's 1924 novel Precious Bane, written by poet and playwright Jonathan Davidson, was without doubt my stand-out event.

A tour de force by a company of actors who were two feet from their audience and yet conjured up galloping horses, wild dogs, chickens and a wounded family, torn apart by their inability to deal with loss and difference, in a world of superstition.

Even more remarkably, this was a small-scale touring show, aimed at special schools and mainstream theatre audiences. There were pitch perfect performances, haunting music and soundscapes, coarse bread to share from the peddler and the water from the mop bucket washing your feet.

It brought the very bones of the book alive."

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Roy Clare
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council Chief Executive
"The launch of Stories of the World saw 59 Partners – representing a cross-section of museums, libraries and archives – working together in 14 separate locations across the UK to re-interpret collections. A major project for the Cultural Olympiad, this was a stirring example of new thinking and strength in numbers.

Giving public libraries the option to provide broadband allowed 15 million people without the internet at home to gain free internet access in their neighbourhood public library. This breakthrough was just one example of the power of the digital age. It will liberate thinking and democratise learning.

The MLA became one organisation representing the whole of the UK. For the first time it will be able to make a difference across all the regions, bringing culture to more and more people."