Absolutely blooming marvellous
When I was a child I could think of no more tedious outing than to be whisked off by my parents to the local garden centre. These sprawling temples of boredom were always full of tweedy types staring at pots (some of them empty) and bags upon bags of compost – some of them split open so that men could stick their hands in and feel the consistency of all that decomposed matter. Yuck. It wasn’t until years later that I grew to appreciate plants, and yes I’ll admit, the peculiar attractions of decomposed matter. But if only my parents had of taken me to something as exciting as The Clockwork Garden then I may have become enraptured that bit earlier.
The story concerns a strange mechanical seed that has flown from a planet far away and landed in the Bowes Museum’s main exhibition gallery – which is filled with a beautiful, interactive exhibition. The seed needs to learn the secrets that make gardens full of life and beauty, so it can take them back to its own planet, which has no gardens. Not only that, in the museum’s more earthly gardens and grounds, there will be the chance to probe further into the magical story through the ‘Clockwork Garden Adventure Trail’. Here you can follow a curious, illustrated map to find tendrils of the mechanical seed, completing tasks and challenges and solving clues left by the wondrous characters of the museum’s founders, both historical and fictional.
The whole experience has been put together by The House of Fairy Tales, the imaginative children’s arts charity that was founded by Deborah Curtis and leading contemporary artist Gavin Turk, that brings creative learning experiences to children and young people throughout the UK.
Turk’s work can also be seen in Turkish Tulips, a travelling exhibition that has been interwoven among the Bowes Museum’s permanent collection. It’s a show that delves into the complex and paradoxical story of tulips as artists mine the rich vein of secrets behind this iconic bloom, provoking new perspectives on the museum’s collection. Many of the big names of the contemporary art world are represented throughout the exhibition including Damien Hirst, Michael Craig-Martin, Cornelia Parker, Sir Peter Blake, Fiona Banner, Mat Collishaw, Adam Dant and Yinka Shonibare.
Both exhibitions are complemented by a wide range of events - full details of which can be found at the website, below - and both offer the kind of thrills that you’ll never get from your local garden centre.
The Clockwork Garden & Turkish Tulips, 29 July-5 November, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham. Adults £10.50, over 60 £9.50, student £6, children free. thebowesmuseum.org.uk