National Gallery commission Theresa Lola to write a poem for new digital exhibition of Christmas painting

British Nigerian poet Theresa Lola has been commissioned by the National Gallery to write a poem that will feature in its digital Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’ exhibition opening this December.

Theresa Lola has been asked to write a text that imagines the character of the Black king Balthasar depicted in Jan Gossaert’s 16-century masterpiece The Adoration of the Kings, the centre-piece of a new immersive experience for the Christmas period which has been designed and tested with over seventy members of the public.

Theresa Lola was the 2019 Young People’s Laureate for London and the joint winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. In that same year, she was commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Office to write and read a poem at the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett’s statue at Parliament Square.

Her new poem will be an integral part of ‘Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’’ which will show one of the Gallery’s most popular pictures as never before and is designed as an immersive experience while maintaining social distancing. 

As visitors view the actual painting, the voice of one of its depicted characters, King Balthasar, will speak to them in a spatialised 360 soundscape before light and sound lead them into individual ‘pods’, whose design is inspired by the bells and robes in the painting, to experience an interactive version of the painting.

Image: Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart), ‘The Adoration of the Kings’, 1510-15 NG2790, Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart)
active 1508; died 1532
‘The Adoration of the Kings’, 1510–15
Oil on oak, 179.8 × 163.2 cm

‘Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’’ 9 December 2020 – 28 February 2021

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