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Community Curators bring experiences of migration to shine a fresh light on Old Masters

A new display co-created by six ‘community curators’ with personal experiences of migration will shine a fresh light on works from Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Collection. Supported by a major grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, Journeys will explore themes of identity and belonging, the challenges and triumphs of migration and London’s multiculturalism, and will run from 21 January – 24 June 2020.

The display will be shaped around the personal and diverse stories of the curators; aged between 29 and 69, whose combined heritage spans eight countries - including Yemen, Sri Lanka, Italy, Pakistan and Ireland. It will examine the contemporary relevance of paintings by artists such as Poussin, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck, revealing the importance of migration in enabling a dynamic, cultural exchange of ideas.

Together, the team have worked to find ways in which Old Master paintings can speak to the topic of migration, discussing the complexities in order to write arresting and thought-provoking interpretation for the display. Seen through this new lens, A Brisk Breeze (c.1665), by Willem van de Velde the younger, shows the strength of a traveller by depicting sailors battling against a colossal and chaotic climate. It is one of a group of paintings chosen for its significance to the theme of migration and represents the challenges and triumphs of a journey, as well as the determination needed to undertake them.

Rasha Obaid is one of the volunteers on the project. She is an artist and director of Economic Development and Post-War Recovery Programme at the Peace Track Initiative, a non-governmental organisation founded and run by Yemeni women. She said:

“I joined the project to learn more about the Gallery and its collection. But also, because I feel I have something to share with people. I am a refugee, I see what is said on the news, and I don’t necessarily relate to everything. l want to show a more positive side, and to make it more human.”

Jennifer Scott, The Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, said:

“There are many stories to be discovered in our Collection. The group’s energy and combined experience have drawn out complex themes and fresh ideas. Every volunteer in this project has brought their own personal response, breathing new life into these beautiful paintings.”

The final week of the display will coincide with Refugee Week (15-21 June 2020) – a UK-wide programme of events that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK. In celebration, the Gallery will host a special, free Late on Friday 19 June.


Notes to editors

Journeys is part of an 18-month project at Dulwich Picture Gallery that will include a range of public events co-delivered by local community partners. For more information please visit

Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund


Meg Molloy, Senior Press Officer
020 8299 8715 /

Louisa Bee, Head of Communications
020 8299 8710 /

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