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Open Arts Objects

Open Arts Objects (OAO) is project from the Open University explores a series of vivid objects from ancient times to the present, showing how each is not merely a seductive or beautiful artwork or artefact, but can also reveal fascinating histories and connections. In short films on selected objects, members of the department showcase their innovative research to the public. The objects explored include paintings, sculpture, prints, ceramics, architecture and design, film and video, and installation and performance art. These films shed light on some of the unsolved mysteries of material objects, exploring what is left out of standard art history textbooks and they teach viewers how to look closely—a critical tool for Art History. We have also collaborated with curators in museums across the UK in order to bring the museum into the classroom. In these select films, a curator brings to life a work from their collection within the space of the museum.

Watch this short film outlining the Open Arts Objects project

We have been working closely with A-level teachers, and many of our films are tailored to the new A-level Curriculum by Pearson, covering the themes of Identities, Nature, and War, but they can also be easily adapted to the Cambridge Pre-U, and offer resources for any teacher who incorporates art and design into their teaching. Click on the title of the film to open a dedicated page with free support material.

This project is part of the current strategy within the OU to develop a series of public facing initiatives that can help inspire wider and diverse constituencies to enjoy and understand art works and visual culture. We are now starting a new leg of the project ‘learning from local artefacts.’ These community-based projects seek to empower community groups and individuals with the skills they need to understand the visual world and its histories around them. If you would like to be part of one of these regional projects, please contact us at openartsobjects@open.ac.uk. If you have been using our films and support materials in your teaching, we would appreciate you answering a very short survey (6 questions, approx. 5 minutes).

Partake in our Facebook group and check us out on Instagram and twitter (where every Monday when we post an interesting object/work of art at the start of every week for #materialmondays).

We also have a parallel project, Travelling Objects hosted on the OU platform OpenLearn, which explores a series of objects that have travelled and/or have been used across cultures, borders and geographies, connected to the BBC series Civilisations. In 2017-18 members of the Open Arts Objects team served as academic consultants for the 9-part BBC series Civilisations produced in partnership with the OU, reaching over 13.7 million viewers. In 2019 OAO was nominated for the Times Higher Education Awards in the category of Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year.

Bryony White (Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art) discussing Bridget Riley, Kashan, 1984, National Museum Wales, Cardiff.

Francesca Leoni (Curator of Islamic Art) discussing a Spanish cylindrical ivory casket (pyxis) lid with huntsmen and animals, 389 in the Islamic calendar, or 998-999, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

An Van Camp (Curator of Northern European Art) discussing Jan van Kessel, Decorative Still-Life Composition with a Porcelain Bowl, Fruit and Insects, 17th century, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Kathleen Christian discussing Michelangelo’s Pietà, 1498-99, St. Peter’s, Rome.

Angeliki Lymberopoulou and Rembrandt Duits discussing the term iconography. Includes Giotto, Entry into Jerusalem, Arena chapel; a Byzantine panel painting (icon) of the Virgin and Child; Gianlorenzo Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne; Jacob Matham’s engraving of ‘Envy’; Bellini, Madonna of the Meadow.

Leah Clark and Kathleen Christian discussing the term mobility, and how it has changed the way we approach Renaissance works of art. Includes Holbein’s Ambassadors; Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and its circulation in print; a devotional diptych with a portrait of Joos van der Burch.

Susie West and Leah Clark discussing commemoration and how it can be applied to works of art and architecture. Includes war memorials; tomb sculpture; Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, Tower of London.

Renate Dohmen and Kathleen Christian discussing the complexities of the term essentialism, exploring the ideas of art and culture it produced in the nineteenth century and what its legacies are today. Includes James Stephanoff, An Assemblage of Works of Art in Sculpture and in Painting, 1845; Johann Zoffany, Major William Palmer with his second wife, the Mughal princess Bibi Faiz Bakhsh; Rembrandt, Man in Oriental Costume.

Warren Carter and Paul Wood discuss the complex and shifting status of the term modernism from the nineteenth century through to the present.

Warren Carter and Paul Wood discuss the complex relationship between modernism and the avant-garde.

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