British Art Show

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The British Art Show (BAS) is a major survey exhibition organised every five years to showcase contemporary British Art. Each time it is organised, the show tours to three UK cities. It has become so large that it usually requires a number of venues to accommodate it. As a snap shot of Contemporary British Art the exhibition has some equivalence to the biennial exhibitions of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The exhibition is normally selected by two or three people who are appointed for their knowledge of contemporary art. Previously these had been artists and critics but more recently they have been selected from curators.

The 1990 show caused controversy as it did not include any Scottish artists although the exhibition was opening in Glasgow as part of their European Capital of Culture programme.[1]

The 1995 show, curated by Richard Cork, Rose Finn-Kelcey and Thomas Lawson, was highly regarded as it spotlighted the emergence of the Young British Artists.[citation needed]

The 2000 show was selected by Jacqui Poncelet, Pippa Coles and Matthew Higgs resulting in an exhibition of more than 50 artists in a show of inclusiveness and geographical diversity.[2]

The 2005 BAS, curated by Andrea Schlieker and Alex Farquharson, BAS included a large number of artists born outside the UK. As the exhibition opened at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead there was some comment that there were few artists represented from the North East of England, and many were not originally from the UK.[3]

British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet [1]

The British Art Show is widely recognised as the most ambitious and influential exhibition of contemporary British art. Organised by Hayward Touring, it takes place every five years and tours to four different cities across the UK. Now in its seventh incarnation the British Art Show opens in Nottingham, and toured for the first time in 20 years to the Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre, followed by venues in Glasgow and Plymouth. It is curated by Lisa Le Feuvre and Tom Morton.

The 39 selected artists were selected on the grounds of their significant contribution to contemporary art in the last five years. All artworks included have been produced since 2005 and encompass sculpture, painting, installation, drawing, photography, film, video and performance, with many artists creating new works especially for the exhibition. British Art Show 7 marks a change in direction from previous years, moving away from the model of a survey show to an exhibition with a marked curatorial focus.

"The British Art Show has always been at the forefront of innovation, and this incarnation is no exception." Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery.

Subtitled In the Days of the Comet, British Art Show 7 employs the motif of the comet to explore and draw together a set of concerns that thread their way through the practices of the selected artists. Here the comet alludes to the measuring of time, to historical recurrence, and to parallel worlds. Comets are also commonly understood as harbingers of change, and fittingly the exhibition will evolve as it moves from city to city, revealing new works at different venues, creating a unique exhibition in each host city.

"We are interested in the recurrent nature of the comet as a symbol of how each version of the present collides with the past and the future, and the work of the artists in British Art Show 7, in many different ways, contest assumptions of how ‘the now’ might be understood." Lisa Le Feuvre and Tom Morton, Curators of British Art Show 7.


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