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Art historian Dr James Fox appointed light festival guest curator

  • 23 August 2017

Caius art historian and broadcaster Dr James Fox, known for his inspiring work on colour, has been named guest curator for the light festival e-Luminate Cambridge 2018.

Dr Fox, whose BBC2 and BBC4 programmes include A History of Art in Three Colours, will lend his expertise to the programming of the popular festival, which brings thousands to the centre of Cambridge each February to see familiar places and spaces transformed by light. The event combines artistic display and technological innovation in its installations, which offer new and magical dimensions to buildings such as the Senate House and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The next festival, the sixth, takes the theme of colour - providing a perfect match with Dr Fox's particular area of expertise. He is currently completing a major book entitled The Meaning of Colour, to be published by Penguin (Allen Lane) early in 2018.

As guest curator, the art historian will work alongside Founder and Artistic Director of e-Luminate Cambridge, Alessandra Caggiano. She said: "Working with James for the next edition of e-Luminate Cambridge is an immense pleasure and privilege. His knowledge and genuine interest in the theme of colour are a great inspiration and I am truly excited by what the artistic programme is shaping up to be already.

"He is also a much-loved public figure thanks to his work as a TV presenter; I believe this will help our mission to get more people involved in the festival to discover the best of Cambridge’s artistic talents, technological innovations, and heritage in a new light."

The emerging programme for the sixth festival remains secret for now, but Dr Fox revealed he hopes to illuminate the connections linking art with science and technology. He said: "I’ve been dazzled and delighted by e-Luminate Cambridge since it started in 2013. It floods Cambridge with light at a dark time of the year, and makes us see this beautiful city with fresh eyes. I am therefore delighted to be working with Alessandra in curating the 2018 Festival. Together we will explore a subject very close to my heart: colour. We’ll explore the complex relationship between light and colour from various perspectives, combining art, science, and technology.  We will also pay tribute to Cambridge’s contributions to colour theory by bringing Isaac Newton’s and James Clerk Maxwell’s momentous discoveries to life."

Physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton began a series of experiments in the 1660s with sunlight and prisms, demonstrating that clear white light was composed of seven visible colors. By scientifically establishing our visible spectrum, Newton laid the path for others to experiment with colour in a scientific manner. His work led to breakthroughs in optics, physics, chemistry, perception, and the study of color in nature.

The renowned Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell, among numerous momentous discoveries, showed that any colour can be made by combining red, green, and blue light in the appropriate proportions. He also produced the world's first durable colour photograph.

Editor's notes:

  • The 2018 festival will run from 9-14 February 2018
  • BBC4 TV is currently repeating the series A History of Art in Three Colours in which Dr James Fox explores how, in the hands of artists, the colours gold, blue and white have stirred our emotions, changed the way we behave and even altered the course of history.


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