Manchester Museum to open Coral: Something Rich and Strange

By Culture24 Reporter | 15 November 2013

New coral show at Manchester Museum to highlight environmental concerns and show off highlights from the art and science collections of national and international galleries

A photo of a young woman in glamorous make-up wearing an outfit made of coral reef
Karen Casper, Ventalina, Embroidered Coral Fan (2013). Photo: Ian McManus© MUA: Allison Willcox / Hair: Laura Southworth at Scarlet Hair Studio / Model: Chloe Grundy, Nemesis Model Agency
From models of sea anemones from the 18th century to a Rossetti painting made 145 years ago, in which a young girl wears a necklace sculpted from material found beneath the waves, Manchester Museum’s sub-oceanic exhibition weaves through art history and science via the magic of coral.

Most of the objects involved possess an alien beauty about them. Invertebrates and rosaries are among them, drawn from the city’s collections and presenting coral as an organism at risk and a symbol bridging the gap between disciplines. Three international institutions and 15 national ones – including the V&A – have taken part.

“Half of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed in the last 30 years,” points out Dr Nick Merriman, of the museum, discussing the environmental warnings held by these exhibits.

“If we do not take action immediately to reverse this decline, we will see all of them disappear before the end of the century.

“This exhibition is timely by showing the beauty of coral, both in nature and in the ways it has been used artistically, and what we risk losing if we stand by while it is destroyed.”

Dr Marion Endt-Jones, a Fellow in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Manchester, has created the show in the culmination of a three-year project.

“We hope to illustrate what rich and diverse cultural traditions we put at risk by polluting, overfishing and acidifying the world’s oceans,” she says.

“Manchester Museum, as a multi-disciplinary university museum, presented itself as an ideal venue for giving a public outlet to my research.”

Manchester’s own Crochet Coral Reef, fashioned in a large-scale community engagement project, stars alongside new works by Mark Dion – a Tate favourite – and Lancashire-based textile artist Karen Casper.

  • Coral: Something Rich and Strange opens at the Manchester Museum on November 29 2013. Use the hashtag #MMCoral on Twitter.

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An image of a 19th century oil painting of a young girl wearing a headdress of coral reef
Susan Isabel Dacre, Italian Girl with necklace© Manchester City Galleries
A photo of various mini-trees made out of white and black-dotted material inside test tubes
Mark Dion, Bone Coral (phantom museum) (2011)© Courtesy Georg Kargl Fine Arts, Vienna. Photo: Matthias Bildstein
An image of an oil painting showing various classical nude figures cavorting in a sea
Ippolita Scarsella Scarsellino, The Discovery of Coral© The Matthiesen Gallery, London
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