One of the biggest and most prestigious art shows in the UK opens its doors at Aberdeen Art Gallery this Saturday – and a team of local champions will spread the word about the landmark event.
British Art Show 9 ambassadors will work with local communities and people to encourage them to engage with this dazzling showcase of the best in contemporary art, which tours every five years to great acclaim.
Excitement is already building for the show, said Lesley Anne Rose, the Aberdeen City coordinator for BAS9, which is opening its UK tour in the Granite City, before moving on to Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth.
Lesley Anne said: “It is a massive show. The very fact it is coming to Aberdeen is a huge recognition of the city’s cultural sector at a really important time for it.
“That a show of this size and this gravitas is able to happen in these circumstances is a big deal. But certainly coming to Aberdeen to open here, the only Scottish city, I think it is a really big deal.”
Lesley Anne is behind the Ambassadors Programme, a band of local people with a passion for contemporary art to work with local groups and communities to explore and connect with the show, which is a snapshot of the finest artists working today.
Show is for everyone in Aberdeen
“They are a link between the show and their communities. They will be learning about the pieces of work and engaging with their communities, talking about the show and encouraging them to come in and sharing what it is all about.
“It’s to make sure that the whole of Aberdeen really engages with the work and they feel it is for them and they are part of it. Hopefully, they will come back to the gallery again and again to see their favourite pieces. The ambassadors are champions for the work.”
And there is much to champion, with more than 30 artists taking part, their works being displayed across the whole of the gallery during the 13 weeks of the show, staged by Hayward Gallery Touring. The installations include a specially-commissioned sculpture, films, photography, painting and performance.
One of the ambassadors is Bart Grabski, a Robert Gordon University graduate, who will be using social media to connect with both the city’s student and international populations to generate excitement about the show, which first started in 1979 and has built a reputation second to none in the art world.
He said: “I just feel it is an amazing opportunity here in Aberdeen that the British Art Show is coming and I am so happy to be part of it. I am originally from Poland and I think it’s important through art we communicate with all of the different communities.”
A right way to look at contemporary art?
Bart said he will be offering workshops and a mobile art school exploring contemporary art, which can be joyous and exciting, but sometimes challenging and elitist.
“We will be running a series of videos about contemporary art and how to look at it and how to it interpret it and whether there is a right way of looking at contemporary art. To me, contemporary art is what it says to you and what you see through that… it shows you different perspectives on different aspects,” he said.
Bart believes BAS9, which has themes exploring tactics for togetherness, imagining new futures, and healing, care and reparative history, is a landmark show and will have a lasting legacy for Aberdeen.
He said: “Through the art we are trying to connect different communities and I hope that will be one of the legacies after the British Art Show leaves. The other part will be that it will open the idea for people in Scotland that there is a lot going on in Aberdeen, it’s not just about Edinburgh and Glasgow.”
Reema Shoaib, who runs the Facebook page ChaiTime, is also delighted and excited to be an ambassador for BAS9. She aims to spread the word about the show in the Pakistani and ethnic minority communities of Aberdeen, helped by ChaiTime which aims to connect people in Britain and Pakistan through arts and culture.
British Art Show will do wonders for city
“Aberdeen is just waking up from the pandemic nightmare, just like any other city in the world. I feel (the British Art Show) is a real reason to be excited because of the sheer magnitude and scale this exhibition brings with it, and the repute as well,” said Reema.
“And the themes are so connectable to each and every person today, especially in Aberdeen. There are a lot of things to be excited about.”
Reema will be working tirelessly to engage with the Pakistani and ethnic communities, both digitally and by the more traditional means of dropping off posters and leaflets in shops and places of worship.
She said: “I think this show will do wonders for the city. It will put it on the map – it already has, it is one of the biggest show openings of the summertime and it’s opening in Aberdeen.
“Aberdeen is on the right track, so upward and beyond.”
British Art Show 9 opens at Aberdeen Art Gallery on Saturday July 10 and runs until October 10.
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