Open-air screenings of opera and ballet have become something of a summer event. With their popularity clear to see from the crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square, it is no wonder that the National Gallery should jump on board. They first collaborated with Exhibition On Screen back in 2012 to film ‘Leonardo from the National Gallery’, when the company – and the concept of ‘event cinema’ – was still in its infancy; now a film based on their latest blockbuster exhibition of Goya’s portraits is about to be launched.
Exhibition On Screen pioneered the idea of exhibition films for cinema. It was the brainchild of Phil Grabsky, director and producer at Seventh Art Productions, who works with Arts Alliance Ltd to bring these feature-length films to cinemas around the country. Now in its third season, ‘Goya – Visions of Flesh and Blood’ is the fourth production hosted by the National Gallery. Grabsky in keen to impress that Exhibition On Screen in no way competes with the exhibition itself: it works both as a means for those with limited mobility to see the exhibition on a scale and quality almost equivalent to first hand, while also – with its additional ‘behind-the-scenes footage’, complementary material and historical context – acting as an extension to the gallery visit for those eager to learn more. Meanwhile institutions, such as the National Gallery, gain a lasting record of an exhibition that has taken many years to bring to fruition, and in widening access to their cultural treasures they gain a great deal of positive publicity and interest.
Having seen the exhibition at first hand, the preview clip of the upcoming film was astonishing in its almost tactile detail. Event cinema such as this really only became possible in the last decade with the development of technology allowing the material to be reproduced on a cinematic scale. It combines the best of the TV documentary tradition with the drama of the cinema experience – as director David Bickerstaff emphasised, the film is an ‘emotional journey’ very different to the more analytical progress one makes through a gallery.
By Kitty Hudson
‘Goya – Visions of Flesh and Blood’ will be released in cinemas nationwide from 1st December 2015. For more information visit www.exhibitiononscreen.com.