The Petite Galerie curated and designed by Dominique de Font Réalux aims to “foster the encounter between the work and the young, where we made quality extension” by exploring a theme through major works from prehistory to contemporary creation each year.
With children as the Petite Galerie’s target audience, their current exhibition, “Founding Myths: From Hercules to Darth Vader” includes multi-cultural artefacts. It is difficult to convey a foreign culture in a few words and images, thus the Petite Galerie uses a lot of simple pedagogical installations to display artworks of different cultures for children. For instance, simple labels with explanations in colourful and large texts are displayed at children’s eye level; wall texts are framed within interesting graphical shapes; a lot of touchable materials to translate the texture of associated artworks; a mirror installed behind Jug (About 450 BC) to show the backside of it and re-drawn illustrations to display the patterns on Mirror (4th century BC) better; an exhibition booklet (see fig. 1) as a guidance which call attention to a few artworks, their provenance and importance within history; and an interactive puzzle (see fig. 2-3) next to some artworks to allow children to understand them in a wider spectrum, including smell, sound and physical qualities. Through the use of the exhibition booklet and puzzles, children can learn a lot about the aesthetic details of the artworks through the drawing, pattern identification and spot the differences exercises. With the encouragement of control of lights and imitation as artworks from the puzzles, they can also learn about the artworks’ aesthetic and provenance. Rather than displaying usual museum placards with information captions, artists, date of creation, country of creation and material, a detailed background story is added for the provenance of artworks to be better understood. If visitors would like to receive some further background information, the “!” sign in some keywords on the text guide them to some more texts next to the artefact to avoid information overload. (See fig. 4 – 5)
It is a clever decision for the Petite Galerie to relate prehistorical artworks with current cartoon or animation characters that children are familiar with, as it provides an
invitation for their engagement. For instance, there is a connection with Hercules and the modern day Superman in the Heroes wall text. (See fig. 6) The display of contemporary art along with prehistorical artworks makes a subtle connection about how some mythical beliefs or ideology still exists or still serves as an influence in the modern day.
There are also a lot of follow-up events for visitors who have developed a growing interest in the displayed artworks. For instance, by the exit of the gallery, there is a floor plan showing more related artworks if they would like to continue with the journey by exploring other mythical artworks. The Petite Galerie is situated on the ground floor of the Richelieu Wing, where there are a lot of French sculptures from the 5th to the 18th centuries, most of the artworks displayed in the Petite Galerie are very much related to these artworks within the same side of the wing and thus form a foundation of knowledge for children to appreciate other artworks within the same wing.
If I were the curator of this installation, I would change a few things to enhance visitor knowledge. Although children are the target audience of the exhibition, through my observation, they are bound to their parents who would read the texts to them. (See fig. 7 – 8) Hence, the background stories might serve children with a more mature age or their parents. In some cases, even the children have to sit close to the wall in order to read the texts. I still like the idea of artworks descriptions placed at children’s eye-level, but I might change it to a different angle so it would serve both children and parents to read them in a more enjoyable way. (See fig. 9)
I would also create a wall on the right side of the entrance to the “Heroes” section stretching to the room that plays the Star Wars documentary in the “Monster” section. This measure is to better implement the journey in a clearer sequence of learning “Dawn of the World” and “Created Worlds”, “Magic and Awe” and “Day and Night” then “Heroes” and “Monsters” and finally “Shows the Myths” as the exhibition was planned to curate. I would place the Pandemonium by John Martin (1841) that is now placed in the middle between “Heroes” and “Monsters” sections, by the exit so that it is grouped clearly with the other “Show the Myths” artworks as categorised on their website. (See fig. 10).
The Petite Galerie is designed to target children, the Louvre might want to consider that they are mostly accompanied with their parents or other adults. Although a lot of installations are designed for children in their perspective, it is a food for thought to consider some pedagogical materials designed for adults based on their intimate physical engagement with the children in the gallery.