Celts: Art and Identity at the British Museum
Celts: Art and Identity is an exquisite blend of art and history, exploring what it means to be Celtic through the many objects that have come to define their existence over the past 2,500 years. Regardless of the fact that a singular, precise Celtic identity has become the source of much controversy – along with their exact geographic positioning – it attempts to unite all of the branches of the numerous Celtic cultures under one tree.
The exhibit displays a wide range of Celtic artefacts – including ancient battle garments, medieval manuscripts, jewellery and crosses – that all tell the evolving, two-and-a-half millennia story of the Celtic civilisation. The works of art displayed many of which are abstract – seem intrinsically connected, and it seems impossible to imagine that they are works of a plethora of distinctive cultures.
What is perhaps most poetic about this exhibition is that many of the visitors will have some kind of relationship with the Celts, whether it be through Celtic ancestry, a Celtic language, or Celtic practices that still exist today. In all likelihood, many will have some vague affiliation with various Celtic sub-cultures, such as tattoos or tartans. As a result, most who attend this collection can expect to resonate with it in some way, even if just at a visceral or instinctive level.
Though beautiful and historically fruitful, it feels as though the exhibition tries to answer too many questions, rather than raise any thought-provoking ones; to try and consolidate this many diverse cultures under one umbrella is certainly an audacious move – and one that can at times seem dismissive of the distinctions between each of them.
Celts: Art and Identity is at the British Museum from 24th September 2015 until 31st January 2016, for further information visit here.