From a model railway in Chester to the Natural History Museum’s diplodocus cast in Norwich, cathedrals across the nation are currently host to a variety of art exhibitions.
Cathedrals have been exhibiting art in their cavernous spaces for years, along with hosting helter-skelters, ice rinks, corporate dinners, Christmas parties and concerts, as a way of drawing in visitors and raising funds to help pay their astronomical maintenance bills.
But this summer, art installations are also being used by cathedrals to bounce back from 16 months of closures and restrictions. “It’s a good chance to get alongside our visitors and the things that excite their imagination, what they hope for and believe in,” said the Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, the chair of the Association of English Cathedrals.
At the 800-year-old Lichfield Cathedral, where Dorber is dean, an immersive light and sound installation celebrating science and scientists will open this month. The Great Exhibition: Science is “a fun, engaging and awe-inspiring celebration of all that science has achieved throughout history”, said Dorber.
Peace Doves, an installation at Liverpool Cathedral by Peter Walker, features roughly 18,000 paper doves suspended on 15.5 miles of ribbon from the cathedral roof, accompanied by a soundscape from the composer David Harper. Local schoolchildren and community groups were invited to write messages onto the doves.
Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon, featuring detailed Nasa imagery of the lunar surface, will be displayed at Bristol Cathedral in the second half of August, and later in the year at Wells Cathedral and Bath Abbey.
In Exeter, Density and Lightness features 75 sculptures from 24 artists inside and outside the cathedral, made from stone, wood, ceramic, bronze, plaster and glass. Alongside the exhibition are workshops, dance performances and art tours.
Reverend Canon Mike Williams, the cathedral’s canon treasurer, said “The power of art to speak to us at important moments in our lives should never be underestimated as we emerge from severe restrictions and the impacts on normal life.”