ExhibReview – OPEN MUSEUM #2 Donald – Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille

From Vermeer and Raphael, all the way through to Mondrian, the parodying work of InterDuck Collective is omnipresent throughout the Palais des Beaux-Arts.

Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

The Palais du Beaux-Arts in Lille is glorious space. One of the first museums built in France it offers a fantastic collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century European art specialising in French and Flemish painters including Rubens and Van Dyke.  With a limited collection of twentieth century art and vast spaces on the ground floor filled with sculpture and ceramics displayed in whole wings of the museum which are only visible behind bars, this museum feels a little  wasteful and dated in its use of space.
Step forward to 2015 and the Donald exhibition has catapulted this museum into the present. The works of the “interDuck collective”, a group of artists “who promote the idea that ducks have inspired history’s great artists” is the theme for the next instalment of OpenMuseum at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. The Disney character Donald Duck is the basis for much of the work and provides a recognisable face throughout the exhibition.
The exhibition opens in the central hall of the Palais des Beaux-arts with a golden egg, filled with important moments from antiquity such as the monuments on Easter Island, recreated in duck form. There is a small room at the side displaying original drawings of Donald Duck and screens showing cartoon clips which provide historical context to the exhibition which is a useful addition.
The remainder of the works have been displayed throughout the museum rather than in a separate temporary exhibit providing an interactive experience which takes the viewer throughout the whole museum. This is reminiscent of Grayson Perry’s “Who are you?” at the National Portrait Gallery in London where Perry’s work was hung amongst the permanent collections and thereby forcing the audience the to view other parts of the museum rather than just Perry’s work. This is a great way for museums to get audiences in to view permanent collections rather than just temporary exhibitions, however, at Donald, this was frustrating, especially for a first time visitor like myself.
Clip of a Donald Duck cartoon at the start of the Donald exhibition

Clip of a Donald Duck cartoon at the start of the Donald exhibition

Throughout the museum, prominent works, not just for the collections of the Palais des Beaux-Arts but European collections more widely have been parodied in duck form. From Vermeer and Raphael, all the way through to Mondrian, the parodying work of InterDuck Collective is omnipresent throughout the museum. Even in the archeological and antiquities section in the basement, thematic duck art had been merged in with the rest of the collections. Although at first this is charming, however, after a while it becomes tiring and an arduous process. Especially as this was my first visit to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, I was keen to see what the museum had to offer and with parodies of art work, some not even from the museum’s own collections such as Delacroix’s, “Liberty Leading the People” which is int he Louvre. It felt at time as if the museum was, in allowing so many parodies of works that were not in the museum’s own collections, undermining its own collections. However, having the InterDuck Collective’s work beside the originals was a great way to show the exhibition but when the original was not in the museum, it became frustrating.
For me, the exhibition would have been better had the duck replica’s been limited to those paintings in the Palais des Beaux-Arts own collections as this would have been more effective in personalising the exhibition to the museum and promoting what the Palais des Beaux-Arts has to offer. Having said that, the idea behind this exhibition was brilliant and its brief was well met and is well worth a visit when in Lille. Other highlights of the museum include Vauban’s relief models of the fortified towns in northern France which are vast and incredibly detailed in the basement which were an unexpected delight.
OPEN MUSEUM #2 Donald is at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille until July 5th 2015.

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