I Object review

Museums British Museum , Bloomsbury Until Monday December 31 2018
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
I Object review
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‘Conservatives: putting the ‘n’ in cuts’ reads a small badge exhibited in close proximity to coins rebranded with political messages and an Ancient Egyptian papyrus mocking the morbid mainstream art of the era.

Curated by Ian Hislop, this exhibition is the alternative version of former British Museum Director Neil MacGregor’s 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'. A thorough rummage through the museum’s storage boxes has enabled Hislop to dredge up a varied - and often individually fascinating - collection of objects all based on the age-old urge to fight the powers that be. Because, as Mary Oliver said, to be human is to sing your own song.

The most impressive items on display are the ones demonstrating how people have covertly resisted tyrannical and repressive regimes. There’s a hand-woven rug emblazoned with a proverb secretly criticising Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, a poster made from real Zimbabwean bank notes protesting spiralling rates of inflation, and a beautiful set of carved Yoruba door panels taking the mick out of British colonialism.

The less edifying part of the show is seeing how, along with global dictators, the other group of people routinely feeling the sharp end of ‘satire’ are women. Cleopatra appears on a Roman oil lamp riding a crocodile with an extra-large cock, and there’s a fourteenth century letter seal engraved with ‘by the cross, women are mad’, because a letter’s just not a letter until it’s sealed with a sexist kiss.

But most bizarre of all is a limestone statue believed to be an act of ancient Assyrian bodyshaming or, as Hislop labels it, ‘an early version of “revenge porn”’. It’s thought some charmer decided to use his wealth to forever commemorate an out-of-favour courtesan as having too fat thighs. Lads, really?

Britain, on the whole, doesn’t come off that well either. Our political wit tends to be of the fart joke variety. Not that it entirely prevents us from being funny. Slap-bang in the middle of the ‘make your own badge’ section is a plain circle bearing the words: ‘Should have been done by Paul Merton.’ Harsh, but at least it shows the national pastime of complaining is alive and well.

By: Rosemary Waugh

Posted:

Venue name: British Museum
Contact:
Address: 44 Great Russell St
London
WC1B 3DG
Opening hours: Open daily 10am–5.30pm, Friday until 8.30pm. Closed Jan 1, Dec 24–
Transport: Tube: Tottenham Court Rd/Holborn/Russell Square
Price: £12, £10 concs.
Event website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/
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    • British Museum £12, £10 concs.
    • British Museum £12, £10 concs.
    • British Museum £12, £10 concs.
    • British Museum £12, £10 concs.
    • British Museum £12, £10 concs.
    • British Museum £12, £10 concs.
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Tastemaker

I was lucky enough to get in to see this on the opening weekend and it is fantastic. Graffiti from workers on Egyptian pyramids;  coins and bank notes being used to pass on rebellious messages, and various other objects from throughout history which 'stick it to the man'. 


The only downside for me was the amount of people allowed into the exhibition at any one time and the queues this caused to see the objects. Luckily as a member I can visit again, however if I had paid I would have been disgruntled and tempted to object! 


Well worth a visit, although recommended outside of peak times!