Widely recognised as ‘the most important recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in the UK’, British Art Show (BAS9) this month makes its much-anticipated Midlands debut when it opens at two Wolverhampton venues - Wolverhampton Art Gallery and University of Wolverhampton School of Art.
The Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition visits the city after showing at Aberdeen Art Gallery and prior to stop-offs in Manchester and Plymouth.

Taking place every five years, the exhibition presents a panoramic view of contemporary art in the UK. Focusing on work made since 2015, British Art Show 9 reflects a time when politics of identity and concerns of social, racial and environmental justice have pervaded public consciousness.  

Each of the exhibitions - across the four cities -  features a different programme of work by local artists, with each show responding to distinctive local contexts. In Wolverhampton, 34 selected artists will respond to three main themes: Healing, Care & Reparative History; Tactics for Togetherness; and Imagining New Futures.

The city’s rich and varied community provides the narrative, with artists exploring identities based around class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. The artists also investigate the way in which Wolverhampton’s cultural history has been shaped by the post-war arrival of Commonwealth migrants who went on to live and work in the city. 

Permanent collections housed at Wolverhampton Art Gallery will also feature as part of BAS9, including works linked to the British Black Arts movement and the venue’s noteable collection of art relating to The Troubles outside Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the show’s Wolverhampton stop-off, BAS9 curators Hammad Nasar and Irene Aristizábal said: “the second iteration of the British Art Show 9, in Wolverhampton, focuses 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 in 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.”

In addition to the offering across the two sites, BAS9 also includes a programme of artist films and a dedicated website to enable  artists to share work online. 

A programme of associated events and activities for all ages will also be available, both for people visiting the exhibition in person and for those wishing to explore via the internet. 

BAS9 HIGHLIGHTS 

Hurvin Anderson: Barbershop Series Including a new painting, Dixie Peach (2020). Born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents, Anderson’s vibrant paintings explore his relationship to both cultures and the tensions that arise through his duality. 

Helen Cammock: Changing Room and Changing Room II  The Staffordshire-born artist reflects on her late father (an art teacher, magistrate and amateur ceramicist) and his experiences of living in Wolverhampton in the 1960s and ’70s.   

Mark Essen Mark has created a pilot programme for an ‘art school of otherness’ within the setting of Wolverhampton School of Art, working with students from the Thomas Telford School to create and furnish a workshop space.

Hardeep Pandhal: Ensorcelled English (2020–21) A new video work which expands Hardeep’s interest in dark enchantment through a fantasy of a cursed art school, while dissecting the racist and sexist structures on which art education is too often founded.

Mandy El-Sayegh A new immersive installation - including sound, paintings from her Net-Grid series and newspaper-covered walls - creates an environment of sensory overload through imagery and a mesmerising soundtrack.

Oona Doherty: Hope Hunt & The Ascension into Lazarus (2015-ongoing) Oona’s work was created after learning that Northern Ireland had the highest rate of young male suicides in Europe. Hope Hunt... has been performed in youth detention centres and prisons as well as theatres. It will be configured as a street performance in Wolverhampton as part of BAS9.

Hetain Patel: Trinity (2021) An ambitious new film created with dance, martial arts and sign language collaborators.

GAIKA: ZEMEL (2021) The experimental rapper, producer, writer, visual and performance artist has drawn on his Caribbean heritage and sound-system culture to produce a shrine to his murdered uncle and other Windrush-generation deportees.

British Art Show 9 shows at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and University of Wolverhampton School of Art from Saturday 22 January until Sunday 10 April More info at: britishartshow9.co.uk