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The Human Touch

Museums and galleries in Cambridge will be closed to the public as part of a period of national/local restrictions.

Touch is our first sense. Through touch we make art, stake a claim to what we own and those we love, express our faith, our belief, our anger. Touch is how we leave our mark and find our place in the world; touch is how we connect.

Drawing on works of art spanning four thousand years and from across the globe, this exhibition explores the fundamental role of touch in human experience, and offers new ways of looking. The curators explore anatomy and skin; the relationship between the brain, hand, and creativity; touch, desire and possession; ideological touch; reverence and iconoclasm. A final section collects a range of reflections, historic and contemporary, on touch.

Objects range from ancient Egyptian limestone sculpture to medieval manuscripts and panel paintings, from devotional and spiritual objects to love tokens and faith rings from all over the world. Drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures by Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Carracci, Hogarth, Turner, Rodin, Degas, and Kollwitz will be re-analysed, seen alongside work by contemporary artists Judy Chicago, Frank Auerbach, Richard Long, the Chapman Brothers, Richard Rawlins, Donald Rodney and others.

The events of 2020 have made us newly alive to both the value and the dangers of touch, and many of the one hundred and fifty or so objects in the show and this accompanying catalogue have become doubly powerful in the context of the pandemic. This exploration of our most fundamental sense is urgent, timely and resonant.

Touch is our first sense. Through touch we make art, stake a claim to what we own and those we love, express our faith, our belief, our anger. Touch is how we leave our mark and find our place in the world; touch is how we connect.

Exhibition details

Exhibition film

Associated curators

Associated Galleries

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