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Exhibition inspired by vandalised paintings opens at National Gallery

The exhibition has been created by the National Gallery's artist in residence Ali Cherri.

An exhibition inspired by paintings that were vandalised while on display has opened at the National Gallery.

The new work by the gallery’s 2021 artist in residence Ali Cherri is called: If you prick us, do we not bleed?

The exhibition looks at how histories of trauma can be explored through a response to museum and gallery collections.

During research into the gallery’s archive, Cherri, 46, uncovered accounts of five National Gallery paintings that were vandalised while on display.

Cherri said: “It is an honour to have been invited as the artist in residence at the National Gallery.

Ali Cherri
Ali Cherri in front of Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait at the National Gallery (The National Gallery/PA)

“The past year has been unprecedented for art institutions, allowing for rethinking the role of the museum in times of crises.

“I am thrilled to be able to spend the year in close proximity to the gallery’s unique collection, as well as that of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.

“Giving a contemporary artist access to one of the world’s richest collections of paintings is a way of keeping the dialogue going and open for new kinds of engagement.”

Born in Lebanon and based in Beirut and Paris, Cherri uses sculpture, film and installation to pursue the meaning of the built environment and its histories.

He often uses archaeological relics and sites as a starting point to explore the processes of excavation, relocation and the museum classification of objects, animal artefacts, images and their narratives.

For the exhibition, which takes its title from Shakespeare’s play The Merchant Of Venice, Cherri has presented a series of mixed media, sculptural installations that recall aspects of each painting and that imagine its life following the vandalism.

The exhibition has been assembled in the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing in the form of five vitrines reminiscent of early museum displays and cabinets of curiosity, surrounded by Renaissance paintings, many of which show wounds and suffering.

Cherri is the National Gallery’s second artist in residence to be chosen since the launch of its Modern and Contemporary Programme, following the appointment of Rosalind Nashashibi in 2019.

If you prick us, do we not bleed? will run from March 16 to June 22 in the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery.

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