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The Exhibitionists and the National Museum Wales

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BBC Wales Arts BBC Wales Arts | 12:34 UK time, Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A new series where the National Museum Wales challenges the public to create their own exhibition from its treasures begins tonight at 10pm on BBC Two Wales.

David Anderson, director general at the museum, talks about the challenges the museum faced in taking part in the series, and what they hoped it would achieve by opening its doors to the cameras and contestants.

The five contestants from The Exhibitionists

The five contestants from The Exhibitionists at the National Museum in Cardiff

This week marks the end of an exciting few months for National Museum Cardiff, of working on the new BBC Cymru Wales series The Exhibitionists. It's the end of the road in terms of filming but just the beginning of the journey for viewers of the programme, our museum visitors and other keen curators.

Cwmni Da approached the museum back in September last year about the possibility of working in partnership with them on a television series, which gave members of the public access to the national art collection. Five exhibitionists would compete against each other for the opportunity to curate their own show at the museum. Although members of the public are welcome to come and see the collections in our secure stores, we've never worked with visitors in this way before!

Of course, there was some nervousness initially from the museum about taking part in a series described as a cross between The Apprentice and MasterChef. Our policy is to encourage new talent and skills and not pass judgement, which is why I turned down the invitation to become the ‘Alan Sugar’ of the programme! That role was given to two independent mentors, Osi Rhys Osmond and Karen MacKinnon who I've got to know well through this process.

I was, however, asked to listen to the hopeful candidates' ideas about their potential exhibitions, and was blown away by their fresh approach and stories which they drew from the national collection. I think all five participants deserved to curate their own exhibition at the Museum but for this series, there had to be a winner!

Until 19 August, National Museum Cardiff is home to an inspiring exhibition, curated by the two finalists of The Exhibitionists. Both have interpreted the collections in a new way, and haven't been afraid to share their own views and personal stories through their displays.

I've always wanted to undertake a project like this, which sees members of the public engaging with our collections, learn new skills and being a part of museum life. People's perceptions of art and galleries are varied. What we hope to achieve through this project is to convince other members of the public that art is relevant to them too.

I've already been asked if the museum would undertake a project like this again – The Exhibitionists Two? We believe this concept is a first for museums across the UK and would very much like to see it develop. I'm hoping Cwmni Da and BBC Cymru Wales will return to Amgueddfa Cymru, to delve into another part of the nation's collections maybe.

Tune in to the first episode on Wednesday, 27 June, BBC Two Wales.

You can see the paintings featured in the series on the Your Paintings website.

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