Past contemporary art

Earth Spells: Witches of the Anthropocene

Caroline Achaintre, Emma Hart, Kris Lemsalu, Mercedes Mühleisen, Grace Ndiritu, Florence Peake, Kiki Smith, Lucy Stein

11 February – 7 May, 2023

This short film about the making of Earth Spells includes interviews with the commissioned artists

In all the artworks there is a recognition of the strangeness, or what many writers on culture refer to as the ‘uncanny’, in the face of the unfolding climate drama. Amitav Ghosh proposes ‘that non-human forces have the ability to intervene directly in human thought’.

Co-curated by RAMM’s contemporary art curator Lara Goodband with freelance curator Gemma Lloyd

Hollow Earth: Art, Caves & The Subterranean Imaginary

23 September 2023 – 7 January, 2024

Hollow Earth: Art, Caves and The Subterranean Imaginary is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition, developed in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary and in collaboration with Glucksman. The exhibition was divided into five sections and echoes the journey into a cave, starting at the threshold and ending in the depths. It included painting, photography, sculpture, and video, as well as objects from RAMM’s collection, from ancient history through to modern and contemporary art.

Joy Gregory, The Sweetest Thing

29 January to 5 June 2022

Acclaimed contemporary artist Joy Gregory was commissioned by RAMM to create new artwork in response to the themes of In Plain Sight: Transatlantic Slavery and Devon. This exhibition explored aspects of Devon and Exeter’s relationship with the slave trade which remain ‘hidden in plain sight’.

Video Link: Joy Gregory: The Sweetest Thing

Gregory’s textile piece was acquired for our collections, with support from the Contemporary Art Society and Friends of RAMM.

The Sweetest Thing (The Sweetest Thing) (

Amy Shelton, Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium

18 September to 21 November 2021 in Gallery 20

RAMM launched a Covid-19 commission in April 2020. Selected by open competition from a range of proposals by artists living or working in Exeter, Amy Shelton was chosen to create her artwork Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium, made in response to the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Video Link: Amy Shelton, Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium

RAMM acquired the artwork with support from the V&A Purchase Grant and the Friends of the Museum in 2022.

Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium (Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium) (

Michelle Sank, Breathe

18 September to 21 November 2021 in Gallery 20

Internationally-acclaimed photographer Michelle Sank exhibited her photographic series Breathe, which documented the first Covid-19 lockdown in the Wonford area of Exeter. Taken on her daily walks, Sank’s photographs offer poignant visual records of individual and shared experiences of social isolation under lockdown.

Video Link: Michelle Sank, Breathe – Interview with Michelle

The works displayed in the exhibition were acquired by RAMM through the Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund in summer 2020.

Breathe, Michelle Sank (

Naomi Frears, In Other Words

14 September to 7 November 2021 in the Core Wall

Commissioned by RAMM to complement her solo exhibition Men Falling at Exeter PhoenixIn Other Words was a stop-motion work by Naomi Frears. It explored the expressive and communicative qualities of sleeves and arms.

Video Link: Naomi Frears, In Other Words – Interview with Naomi

Léonie Hampton, A Language of Seeds

18 May to 5 September 2021 in Gallery 21

A Language of Seeds was created by Devon-based artist and photographer Léonie Hampton. Her commission explored RAMM’s collection of seeds and herbarium sheets in dialogue with her own photographs of her family, friends and vegetable garden.

Video Link: Léonie Hampton, A Language of Seeds

Sea Garden

November 2019 to 26 January 2020

This exhibition explored the gendered relationship with the sea and seaweed. Sea Garden featured RAMM’s first South West Commission by Bryony Gillard. Gillard explored Amelia Warren Griffiths‘ seaweed collection and its connection with contemporary ideas and conversations.

Video Link: Sea Garden

Artists included: Claude Cahun, Jo Crook, Dorothy Cross, Susan Derges, Bryony Gillard, Mollie Goldstrom & William Arnold, Sarah Gordon, Ingela Ihrman, Mikhail Karikis, Sarah Rose, Lucy Skaer.

Handle with Care

21 November to 3 December 2019

Handle with Care was an exhibition of work produced in collaboration between Exeter-based photographer Brendan Barry and a group of young carers in Devon. The photographs on display were created during a series of workshops at Devon Carers, Westbank, and at RAMM.

selection of prints from this exhibition were acquired by RAMM in 2020.

Heinrich & Palmer, Aerial

Birds without Borders, 20 July to 3 November 2019

Artists Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer were commissioned to create a new video for the exhibition Birds without Borders, inspired by RAMM’s migration theme. The resulting work, Aerial, was produced by using point cloud data from a CT scan of a feather and 3D laser scans of birds.

Video Link: Heinrich & Palmer, Aerial

Preston Street Union

Serge/Surge on 28 May 2019
Anyone may come or go, 15 February to 29 March 2019

Exeter-based artists Preston Street Union (PSU) were commissioned in Autumn 2018 to produce work inspired by RAMM’s theme of migration. PSU explored Exeter’s historic wool trade.

Video Link: Preston Street Union – ‘Anyone may come and go’.

Bedwyr Williams, Phizogs

21 July 2018 to April 2019

To celebrate 150 years of opening to the public, RAMM commissioned award-winning artist Bedwyr Williams to create new work. Phizogs was inspired by the array of faces and masks found in RAMM’s collections, including an Easter Island staff, a roof tile from Roman Exeter, and a 17th century gold ring. Each face represented a guest at a fictional birthday party for RAMM. Phizogs was installed around the statue of Prince Albert in RAMM’s Queen Street foyer.

Other Contemporary Art 2019-2023

Touring exhibitions and other contemporary art projects shown at RAMM.

Ruth Bell, Calling of the Tide

10 January 2023 to 11 June 2023 on the Cafe Screen

Calling of the Tide is a dance and video artwork by choreographer and artist Ruth Bell, in collaboration with composer Hannah Parry. Inspired by the Devon coastline, the work explores and responds to the shoreline as a place where the land meets the sea.

Originally created for the Exeter Northcott Futures programme.

Simon Pope, Here’s to Thee


Commissioned in collaboration with University of Exeter Arts & Culture, Here’s to Thee was a project by internationally-renowned artist Simon Pope. He collaborated with a team of creative practitioners and academics to explore the ecology and human cultures of cider-making.

Watch the Exeter Arts and Culture Project Video here

Kay Walsh, All His Rights

28 June to 8 January 2023 on the Cafe screen

Kay Walsh spent a year on the Quantock Hills and Exmoor National Park chronicling the red deer there. Learning to stalk with a National Trust deerstalker opened up a debate about how these wild animals remain present on the hills, raising questions of their future and the protection of their species.

Trish Morrissey: Self Portrait with Two Snails

7 Dec 2021 to 26 June 2022 on the Cafe screen

During the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, Trish Morrissey’s perception of time changed and she suffered from a ‘crippling combination of anxiety, claustrophobia and fear’. Instead of making new artwork, she began to grow her own food and watch snails in the garden, becoming inspired ‘to live in the moment’.

Seedscapes: Future-Proofing Nature

3 July to 5 September 2021 in Galleries 20 & 21

Seedscapes, an Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Professor Liz Wells and creative producer Pippa Oldfield. It brought together five contemporary artists whose work explores global efforts to safeguard vital plant species from extinction.

Artists: Dornith Doherty, Sant Khalsa, Chrystel Lebas, Liz Orton, and Heidi Morstang.


19 November 2021 to 30 January 2022

SOUTHCOTTIAN (2019) was video footage of gameplay recorded inside artist John Walter’s virtual reality game of the same name, inspired by Devon-born prophetess Joanna Southcott (1750-1814).

Video Link: John Walter, SOUTHCOTTIAN

This work drew on RAMM’s extensive collection of material about Southcott, and was installed in RAMM’s ‘Making History’ gallery where objects from this collection are still on display now.

The SOUTHCOTTIAN game is available to download online and play for free through VR headsets.

In partnership with RAMM, Walter’s solo exhibition Jezreel’s Tower was held in the neighbouring Exeter Phoenix.

Criminal Ornamentation

19 January to 17 March 2019

This touring exhibition was curated by acclaimed British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. Showing nearly 100 works by more than 50 artists.

Video Link: #CriminalOrnamentation Trailer

Artists included: Andy Goldsworthy, Sarah Lucas, Sonia Boyce, Susan Derges, Mona Hatoum, David Nash, Bridget Riley, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Timorous Beasties, Boyle Family, Philip Elgin, Cathy de Monchaux, Lisa Milroy, Caragh Thuring, and Bedwyr Williams.