One of the UK’s most prestigious and high-profile events, British Art Show 9, will make its national premiere at Aberdeen Art Gallery on Saturday July 10.
“British Art Show only happens every five years and we – Aberdeen Art Gallery – are the first Scottish venue to host it – what more could we ask for?” said Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson.
Taking place every five years since 1979, this is the first time the eagerly-awaited exhibition – organised by Hayward Gallery Touring – will open in a Scottish city. The gallery staff, as well as the councillor, are “delighted” and “immensely proud” Aberdeen was selected to officially launch the 2021 edition.
The prestigious contemporary art show will remain at Aberdeen Art Gallery until October 10 before travelling to Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth.
In addition to admiring attention-grabbing modern artworks, locals will also be able to participate in a range of events and workshops. See the full programme here.
British Art Show recognises Aberdeen Art Gallery as world-class venue
“What a pinnacle for the Art Gallery to reopen after Covid with something as extraordinary as the British Art Show,” said Marie Boulton.
“The art gallery is actually competing with all other first-class galleries around the world – they don’t give this art show to just anybody.
“I think in the past we have maybe seen this (venue) as a high-quality regional gallery but now we’re playing with the big boys.”
The councillor highlighted the art show is about empathy, healing and the future – themes that were heavily discussed during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s very thought-provoking,” said Marie.
Hoping to broaden people’s horizons and show that art can have many different mediums, textures and styles, Marie is certain the exhibition will “challenge” locals.
“It’s not about saying ‘I love everything’, but it’s about recognising the quality of the creations. Different people will get different things from it – you may not want it in your house, but you can appreciate it as a work of art.”
British Art Show 9 also selected a team of Aberdeen-based ambassadors who will work with local communities to encourage them to engage with this year’s spectacular showcase.
Complex overview of contemporary art
Brian Cass, senior curator at Hayward Gallery Touring, said: “British Art Show is a landmark exhibition that provides a vital, really exhilarating, but also a complex overview of contemporary art in the UK.”
He thinks it’s an “incredible opportunity” for audiences to see how artists are thinking and feeling about the world and imagining new futures.
Curators of British Art Show 9, Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar, considered artworks from 230 artists from 23 cities and selected 47 creatives who spoke in the most “imaginative and innovative” ways – 33 of whom showcase their work in the Granite City.
To frame the exhibition, the curators grouped practices into three expansive categories: healing, care and reparative history; tactics for togetherness; and imagining new futures.
British Art Show explores themes relevant in 2021
And while these themes were chosen in 2019, they believe the unfolding impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the protests against racial injustice make the topics even more urgent and hope they inspire conversation and change.
Brian added: “The exhibition reflects what has been for all of us a really precarious time where there’s been really dramatic upheavals in politics, society, technology and economy.
“So the artists really address this in a complex context, but doing so in a very cunning and unique way and in distinct approaches. They’re offering alternative visions, perhaps, on the future.”
We really hope that visitors find something enjoyable and thought-provoking and maybe they’ll come away with inspiration and feeling of empowerment.”
Art show inspires future generations of artists
Curator Hammad Nasar said that one of the most touching experiences for him when looking at works from different artists was the number of emails he received from creatives saying that they were first introduced to contemporary art when their parents took them to see previous British Art Shows.
He said: “A lot of them said that that’s what made them want to become artists and I very much hope that we’ll have the same reaction this coming round.
“The art show is an incredible opportunity to see work from many different artists from all over the UK.”
While the ongoing coronavirus crisis had a negative impact on many creatives, Hammad says the silver lining is that the artists they invited to take part in British Art Show 9 had time to “cook some more”, work on their art for longer and perfect it.
Everyone can enjoy contemporary art
Brian wanted to reiterate that contemporary art is the “art of now” and it’s for everyone to enjoy.
He said: “The artists made exhilarating, beautiful, remarkable art that is for everyone.
“We really hope that visitors find something enjoyable and thought-provoking and maybe they’ll come away with inspiration and feeling of empowerment and ways of being in the world that they may not have thought about before coming in here.
“And that’s the kind of power of art – it allows us to think of new ways and it gives us ideas.”
Check out what we thought after our first visit to British Art Show 9 below: