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New project will see contemporary artworks installed among the ancient ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii

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Over the next year, two Roman houses - the House of the Beautiful Courtyard at Herculaneum and the House of the Cryptoporticus in Pompeii - will form the backdrop to Expanded Interiors, a new art project.

The driving force behind Expanded Interiors is Catrin Huber, a visual artist and senior lecturer in Newcastle University’s Fine Art Department. Huber has assembled a team of experts in archaeology and digital technology (Professor Ian Haynes, Dr Thea Ravasi, Alex Turner), and contemporary art (Rosie Morris) from across the University, in order to explore the relevance of Roman wall painting and artefacts for today’s fine art practice, and to test how artists can respond to the histories and complex nature of these archaeological sites within a contemporary context.  

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The project combines archaeological investigation, 3D digital scanning and printing to further explore and understand the houses. This meticulous process will also help inform the new and related artistic creations of Huber.

Herculaneum's House of the Beautiful Courtyard

The first of Huber’s site-specific installations will go on show in Herculaneum’s House of the Beautiful Courtyard, on 16 May 2018. The second artwork will be unveiled in the House of the Cryptoporticus, in Pompeii, on 13th July. Both exhibitions will then remain open to the public until January 2019.       

Although intended to be very different, these exhibitions complement each other and are closely related, since both will explore the relationship between wall decoration and objects.

The exhibition at Herculaneum will focus on Roman objects and their (at times) artistically altered replicas. It will concentrate on female figures and faces, and brings reproductions of exquisite, rarely seen artefacts held in store-rooms at Herculaneum back to the public area of the archaeological site.

This contemporary installation will also work with encoded messages relating to the history and context of the site - The House of the Beautiful Courtyard was, for example, home to an Antiquarium (small museum) that was opened there in 1956 by Amedeo Maiuri, the archaeologist and director of the site at the time.

Pompeii exhibition

The corresponding exhibition at Pompeii will respond to the magnificent, recently restored wall paintings at the House of the Cryptoporticus, where two installations of Huber’s wall paintings will incorporate replicas of Roman objects.

Once thriving and sophisticated Roman cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under tons of ash and pumice when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. They have been meticulously preserved and were given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1997. Today, Pompeii alone attracts around 3 million visitors each year.                                    

“Both Herculaneum and Pompeii are incredibly popular with tourists”, says Huber. “We hope that our project will be a stimulating and thought-provoking experience for visitors, helping them to look at these remarkable World Heritage sites from a new perspective.”

Expanded Interiors project website.

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