A summer of art at the Museum of Childhood

Contemporary art will feature in the Museum of Childhood this summer as the Royal Mile venue takes part in the Edinburgh Art Festival for the first time. 

Portrait of a Young Boy by Wendy McMurdo
Portrait of a Young Boy by Wendy McMurdo

Inspired by 19th Century clockwork toys through to 21st Century computer games, two artists explore the influence of technology on children’s imaginations.

Opening today (Thursday 27 July), ‘Let’s Go to a Place’ with the Edinburgh Art Festival features an installation of children’s portraits by internationally-renowned photographer Wendy McMurdo. Documenting the relationship between children and computers following the craze of Pokémon Go, the exhibition explores Wendy's experience seeing young people “roaming the city, inhabiting two worlds at the same time: one geographic and one imaginary”.

A second display by artist Robert Powell sees seven specially commissioned prints sit alongside original examples of clockwork toys. ‘Pneuma: The Mechanical Egg’ brings together the history and mythology of mechanical life into hand-painted etchings and is shown as part of the It’s Alive! Mechanical Marvels from the House of Automata exhibition of automata from the late 19th century. 

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “It's exciting to see these works of contemporary art sit side-by-side with hundred-year old toys in the museum. Working with artists is an important way to share our city's collections, and for visitors to gain new insights into the bigger themes of childhood. As someone who has worked in school education and IT, it is fascinating to see such themes woven together in this way."

Museum of Childhood Curator, Alice Sage, said: “Wendy McMurdo is an internationally significant artist and her exhibition at the Museum of Childhood marks her long-standing interest in the museum and its collections. This is the latest in her long series of work exploring children’s imaginations and relationship with technology.

"McMurdo’s photographs remind us that changes in toys and play create real changes in our imaginations and inner worlds. We invite visitors to explore the museum, and find the portraits hidden in every gallery.”

Describing his work, Artist Robert Powell added: “In making Pneuma: The Mechanical Egg, I found that automata are useful vehicles to explore very human themes - autonomy, learning, science and progress and the relationship between nature and mankind. Even the most fundamental questions as to what make us human.”  

 

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