The British Museum

Living with gods: people, place and worlds beyond 

We took a collaborative approach with the environmental graphics in designing the British Museum’s show Living with gods: people, places and worlds beyond, (November 2017 to April 2018), exploring the practice and expression of religious beliefs over 40,000 years, across many countries, ethnicities and faiths.

Working closely with the curatorial team, led by Jill Cook, along with 3D designers Real Studios and lighting designers Studio ZNA, we made sure our environmental graphics supported the innovative design. Visitors flow past the Museum’s iconic objects via a soft, translucent fabric onto which headline texts are printed. The objects take centre stage, placed on uplit display stands. The journey segues from light to dark, flowing past the objects which are grouped in themes: “Light”, “Fire”, “Sacred Spaces”, “The Wheel of Life”, and “Prayer”. Proceeding in a quasi-circular fashion, visitors start with the star exhibit - a ‘Lion Man’ sculpture, spotlit against a shadowy fabric backdrop - and end in a calm, white space featuring Robert Barry’s 1970 poem/artwork ‘It is wholly indeterminate’, with the elongated shadow of the Lion Man visible through the back of the fabric nearby.
 

Says Philip: ‘To promote the contemplative mood, the exhibition is free of text panels – instead, information is integrated into the fabrics and on floating lit tables. The aim was to keep the design as clean as possible and increase accessibility.’

 

The Telegraph arts writer Alastair Sooke gave it four out of five stars and called it ‘an exhibition so powerful, it makes you cry.’

 

His review concluded: ‘The unusual design of the exhibition – which employs sheer fabric, like veils onto the afterlife, to divide up the various sections – helps to keep things free-flowing, so that we never feel bogged down. And a coup at the end – ensuring that a spectral shadow of Lion Man, cast onto voile, and elongated like a sculpture by Giacometti, is the final thing we see – suggests that perhaps, after all, we are not as “advanced” as we like to think. Bravo.’

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Philip Simpson Design

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London

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