Contemporary Sound Artists Respond To Six Paintings From The National Gallery

This summer, the National Gallery offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience some of the highlights of the collection in a very different way, through what they hear as much as what they see.

Leading contemporary sound artists and musicians Nico Muhly, Susan Philipsz, Gabriel Yared, Jamie xx, Chris Watson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have been commissioned to respond to six paintings of their choice from the National Gallery collection. Each brand new ‘soundscape’ has been specially created for the exhibition and can only be heard within the exhibition space for the duration of the show.

Each musician and sound artist has a soundproofed room in the Sainsbury Wing exhibition space in which their chosen painting and their new sound or musical piece has been installed. These encounters between the visual and the sonic offer visitors an opportunity to experience and think about paintings in an entirely new way: to hear the music within the painting, and to see the visual within the music. This innovative type of exhibition experience has never before been staged at the National Gallery.

Ambitious in its approach, this cross-disciplinary exhibition aims to celebrate the National Gallery’s collection and demonstrate how masterpieces from the collection continue to inspire living artists today. By allowing familiar paintings to be encountered and contemplated from a new angle, visitors are encouraged to rethink their perception of the selected paintings and explore wider conversations about how we experience art and the affinities that exist between music and painting.

Dr Minna Moore Ede, Curator of ‘Soundscapes’ said: “We are tremendously fortunate to have musicians and sound artists of this calibre creating completely new work for the National Gallery… And it is incredibly exciting to see how they will metamorphose these great paintings into musical and sound form.”

Dr Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery said: “When sounds have been composed in response to a work of art they can encourage – even compel – concentration. Furthermore, it can combine with an image to captivate and transport us. Silence, afterwards, is not the same!”

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