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Black British Art

The Black British Art research group brings together curators, artists, researchers and academics interested in critical race issues as they pertain to the histories, collection, production, consumption and display of art in Britain and its audiences.

Founded in 2017, its first phase focused on supporting networking and audience engagement around a series of exhibitions that explored key figures and moments in the development of Black art in Britain. This included consideration of the series of exhibitions that took place in early 2017 at Spike Island and Modern Art Oxford to explore the practices of Lubaina Himid and the wider BLK Art Group as archived and displayed in The Place is Here at Nottingham Contemporary and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA). The group also explored some of the issues around engaging audiences for Black art in Britain through a discussion of Tate Modern’s Soul of a Nation and the International Curators Forum exhibition of the Diaspora Pavilion: Venice to Wolverhampton.

Phase two of the research group will focus specifically on the theme of Confronting the Past for a Sustainable Future which will be explored in a variety of ways, including thinking through the most appropriate strategies for historic collections to confront their own uncomfortable economic origins (specifically the legacies of the slave economy) and/or historically racialised assumptions of display. It might mean finding new strategies for working with contemporary diaspora artists to address legacies of the slave economy and of Empire, or critically reviewing past exhibitions and what they may or may not have achieved, as a way of informing future exhibitions and displays.

The Black British Art research group is led by Dr Elizabeth Robles (Lecturer in Contemporary Art, University of Bristol), Dr Alice Correia (independent art historian) and Marlene Smith (artist and curator).

photo view of a mural-like artwork, a large image running set before a wall, composed of collaged elements of mainly black and white images of children against a pale brown, woodgrain backdrop

Valda Jackson, Still Holding On (Windrush Series, 2018), 3.8 x 12.06m



Activity in 2021

In April-May 2021 the Black British Art group collaborated with the Decolonising Arts Institute at University of the Arts, London, in delivering three workshops. Titled Curating Nation, the series of workshops explored how existing narratives of British art might be expanded through curatorial and art historical interventions. Conceived alongside curator and write  Hammad Nasar, Curating Nation was scheduled to coincide with the planned opening of the British Art Show 9 in Wolverhampton. The group also held the inaugural sessions of the new annual BBA Artist Open and BBA Research Open. These are informal events advertised only within the group and with limited spaces.  Without a set programme, speakers were given 15-20 minutes to discuss their current research projects. More details below.

BBA Artist Open

Featuring: Amanda Holiday, Jai Chuhan, Nina Edge, Valda Jackson, Marlene Smith

For our inaugural annual Artists Open event we invited the artists within the Black British Art Research Group to share a bite-sized discussion of artworks and/or objects from their own creative or research practice. This might  include sharing works that they’ve produced or works that are important to their own practice or research. The Artists Open provided an informal time and space to come together to look at and attend to artworks produced by, and important to, the artists in our diverse and varied membership. The event aimed to facilitate generative and constructive conversations and build networks and connections across the research group.

BBA Research Open

Featuring: Alina Khakoo, Jasmir Creed, Janet Coloute, Kylie Gilchrest, Michael Ohajuru

For our inaugural annual Open Research event, members of the Black British Art Research Group were invited to share updates of their current research projects and/or interests.  This included academic, collections-based or practice-based research from the diverse membership of artists, researchers, curators, educators and other arts professionals. The Open Research event was an opportunity to showcase work-in-progress and will provide informal time and space to find out what everyone is doing. We hoped that the event will build networks and connections across the membership and help us, as Research Group leads, to better understand the issues, priorities and directions of travel of our membership as we think about moving into 2022 programming and beyond.

Elizabeth Robles, Alice Correia, and Marlene Smith, January 2022

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