Black Artists and Modernism

Our Curator of International Art, Nilesh Mistry agreed to give us an insight into his work  He writes:

Working on loans out is a routine part of a curator’s work, but the loan of 14 works to Manchester Art Gallery has been hugely rewarding and eye opening. It also represents the largest loan of artworks by black and Asian British artists in recent times . The loans were to an exciting new exhibition called Speech Acts at Manchester Art Gallery which launched on 25 May 2018 and is on free of charge until 22 April 2019.

Black Artists and Modernism logo

The exhibition is one of the outcomes of the Black Artists and Modernism (BAM) project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as a collaboration between University of the Arts London and Middlesex University.  The research focuses on the relationship between the art-works of artists of African and Asian descent and Modernism, in particular art-works in public collections throughout the UK. Helping the researchers from this project select works from our collection was a real eye opener as they brought very interesting new angles to the works in our collection and uncovered links to works at the John Rylands Library, the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery.

I suppose we always knew our collecting in this area had been ground breaking, but it needed fresh eyes to point out just how significant our collections had become in this field. Originally we had a long list of selected works which was boiled down to 20 and then to 14, as space in the exhibition started to be allocated. There is also a BBC4 documentary planned to show how the research project gained momentum and we have already taken part in the filming for this.

The BAM project provided encouraging findings for Bradford Museums and Galleries. After conducting a national audit of public collections it was determined that Bradford has the largest municipal held collection of works by British black and Asian artists.

On the back of this research we plan to apply for official national recognition via the Designation Scheme. Through sustained programming of exhibitions, displays and acquisitions Bradford aims to build on this by partnership and community working, working with new and existing artists and increasing access to the collections whenever possible.

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