The UK’s largest touring exhibition British Art Show 9 opens in Wolverhampton launching another big year for culture in the Midlands
Press release, January 2022
This weekend, Hayward Gallery Touring’s landmark exhibition British Art Show 9 (BAS9) will continue its national tour, opening in the city of Wolverhampton. Recognised as the most important and ambitious recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in the UK, British Art Show takes place every five years and brings the work of artists defining new directions in contemporary art to four UK cities.
Following its first leg at Aberdeen Art Gallery (10 July – 10 October 2021), this new iteration of the exhibition sees 34 of BAS9’s 47 selected artists presented across two venues in Wolverhampton from 22 January to 10 April 2022: Wolverhampton Art Gallery and University of Wolverhampton School of Art. Following this, the exhibition will continue its national tour to multiple venues across Manchester before closing in Plymouth.
British Art Show 9 is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar, and showcases the multidisciplinary work of 47 contemporary artists. The exhibition reflects a precarious moment in Britain’s history, which has brought politics of identity and nation, concerns of social, racial and environmental justice, and questions of agency to the centre of public consciousness. BAS9 is structured around three main themes – Healing, Care and Reparative History; Tactics for Togetherness; Imagining New Futures – and has been conceived as a cumulative experience, adapting and changing for each city, and presenting different combinations of artists and artworks that respond to their distinctive local contexts.
In Wolverhampton, the exhibition will focus on how we live with and give voice to difference, showcasing 34 artists whose works investigate identity from an intersectional perspective. By exploring coexisting identities such as class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, these works will be presented in critical dialogue with Wolverhampton’s cultural history which has been shaped by the diverse populations that came to work and live there during the post-war period. Wolverhampton Art Gallery houses one of the most significant collections of art on the Troubles outside Northern Ireland. It also collects works linked to the British Black Arts movement which has roots at the Wolverhampton School of Art where many of its members studied. As part of the BAS9 exhibition there will be a display of works from Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s Collection.
Selected highlights of BAS9 Wolverhampton include:
- Works from Hurvin Anderson’s barbershop series – including a new painting Dixie Peach (2020) – will be presented at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents, Anderson’s vibrant paintings explore his relationship to both cultures.
- Helen Cammock’s new multimedia installation Changing Room II (2021) and elegiac film Changing Room (2014) reflect on her late father – who was an art teacher, magistrate and amateur ceramicist – and his experiences of living in Wolverhampton in the 1960s and 70s. This work is made possible through Art Fund support and will be acquired into the collection of Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
- Oona Doherty’s dance work Hope Hunt & The Ascension into Lazarus (2015-ongoing) – created after learning that Northern Ireland had the highest rate of young male suicides in Europe – has been performed in youth detention centres and prisons as well as theatres, and will be configured as a street performance in Wolverhampton on Saturday 9 April 2022 at the Light House.
- Mandy El-Sayegh presents a new immersive installation blank verse blanket man (2022) at Wolverhampton School of Art, incorporating a new sound composition, paintings from her Net-Grid series and walls covered in local Wolverhampton newspapers to create an environment of sensory overload through imagery and a mesmerising soundtrack.
- Mark Essen has created a pilot programme for an ‘experimental art school’ within the setting of Wolverhampton School of Art, working with students from Thomas Telford to create and furnish a workshop space and begin a collective exploration of what an art school could be. School of the Underkraft (2021-22) is made possible with support from Arts Council England Project Grant for National Activities.
- A new audio-visual installation, ZEMEL (2022), from experimental rapper, producer, writer, visual and performance artist GAIKA draws on his Caribbean heritage, sound system culture and is a shrine to his late uncle and other Windrush-generation deportees.
The exhibition includes a programme of artist films and a dedicated website which enables artists, especially those not presented in Wolverhampton, to share works online. A schedule of events and activities for visitors of all ages, both in person and online, will furthermore extend the reach of British Art Show 9 throughout the city and across the Midlands region and its surrounding counties.
Hammad Nasar and Irene Aristizábal, Curators of British Art Show 9, said: “We are thrilled to present the second iteration of BAS9 in Wolverhampton, where we focus on an intersectional approach to living with difference. Our approach foregrounds the contemporary resonance of the Black Lives Matter protests with the historic context of Enoch Powell’s infamous and divisive ‘rivers of blood’ speech (1968), made during his tenure as Wolverhampton South West’s Conservative MP. We see BAS9’s presentation in critical dialogue with Wolverhampton’s cultural history. This is reflected in concrete form through a ‘capsule’ exhibition of a selection of works from Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s permanent collection, presented as part of BAS9”.
Brian Cass, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery Touring, said: “We are delighted to be working with Wolverhampton Art Gallery and University of Wolverhampton School of Art on British Art Show 9. The collections and histories of these two iconic institutions provides an important context for BAS9. We hope the extraordinary range and variety of outstanding work in BAS9 will give everyone who lives and visits Wolverhampton an opportunity to engage with the most exciting contemporary art being produced in the UK today.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication published by Hayward Gallery Publishing which includes two wide-ranging curatorial essays, over 200 colour illustrations and original texts on all 47 artists.
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Simeon Barclay, As a Precursor to Folly, 2021. © Simeon Barclay. Installation view, British Art Show 9, 2021-22, Wolverhampton Art Gallery. A Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition organised in collaboration with galleries across the cities of Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth. Photo © Stuart Whipps.