Keith Piper (artist)

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The Black Assassin Saints (1982), Acrylic on stitched unstretched canvas.

Keith Piper (born in Malta 1960)[1] is a leading contemporary British artist, curator, critic and academic. He was a founder member of the groundbreaking BLK Art Group, an association of black British art students, mostly based in the West Midlands region of the UK.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Piper was born in Malta to a working-class family of African-Caribbean heritage and raised in and around Birmingham.[3] He was first attracted to art as a response to the industrialised, decaying landscape of his youth. Quoted in his monograph ‘Relocating the Remains’ he recalls being, “interested in the aesthetics of peeling paint, rust and dereliction and the multi-layered look of fly posters when they become torn off”.[4] Piper went on to attend Trent Polytechnic, where he gained his B.A.(Hons) in Fine Art in 1983, before graduating with a Masters Degree in Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art in London.[5]

Career and works[edit]

Although Piper’s early and student work made use of traditional fine art media such as paint and canvas (such as ‘The body Politic’ 1983),[6] from the late 1980s he became primarily associated with technically innovative work that explored multi-media elements such as computer software, websites, tape/slide, sound and video within an installation-based practice.[7]

Piper first came to public attention when, in 1982, whilst still a student, he joined Eddie Chambers, the late Donald Rodney and Marlene Smith in what came to be known as the BLK Art Group. Their politically forthright exhibition "The Pan-Afrikan Connection" garnered media attention as it toured to Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham; King Street Gallery in Bristol; and The Africa Centre in London. In 1983-4 a second touring exhibition "The BLK Art Group" was held at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, Battersea Arts Centre in London and, again, the Africa Centre.[8]

However, the group's critique of institutional racism in and beyond Britain's art world[9] became a part of the impetus that led to The Other Story, a seminal survey of African and Asian artists at London's Hayward Gallery in 1989 as well as the founding of the Association of Black Photographers and the establishment of Iniva, the Institute of International Visual arts – some of which have exhibited Piper's work.[10]

Piper continued to practice throughout the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, exhibiting work in prestigious galleries and museums around the world, including, in 1999, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York,[11] in 2007, the Victoria and Albert Museum,[12] and, in 2012, 'Migrations' at Tate Britain.[13] Examples of Piper's work are held in numerous public collections, including the Arts Council Collection[14] Tate[15] and the Manchester Art Gallery.[16]

In 2002, Kieth Piper was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts at Wolverhampton University[17] and has taught for several years as a Reader in Fine Art at London's Middlesex University.[18]

Multimedia installations and projects[edit]

  • A Fictional Tourist in Europe, 2001
  • The Mechanoid's Bloodline, 2001
  • The Exploded City, 1998
  • Four Frontiers, 1998
  • Message Carrier, 1998
  • Robot Bodies, 1998
  • Relocating the Remains, 1997
  • The Fictions of Science, 1996
  • Four Corners, A Contest of Opposites, 1995
  • Reckless Eyeballing, 1995
  • Terrible Spaces, 1994
  • Exotic Signs, 1993
  • Transgressive Acts, 1993
  • Another Step into the Arena, 1992
  • Tagging the Other, 1992
  • Trade Winds, 1992
  • A Ship Called Jesus, 1991
  • Step into the Arena, 1991
  • The Devil Finds Work, 1990
  • Chanting Heads, 1988


  1. ^ Meigh-Andrews, C., 2013. A History of Video Art, pp. 291. A&C Black.
  2. ^ Chambers, E., 2011. Things Done Change: The Cultural Politics of Recent Black Artists in Britain, Rodopi.
  3. ^ Chandler, David, K. & Mercer, Kobena, 1997. Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains, Institute of International Visual Arts (InVA).
  4. ^ Chandler, David, K. & Mercer, Kobena, 1997. Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains, Institute of International Visual Arts (InVA).
  5. ^ Chandler, David, K. & Mercer, Kobena, 1997. Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains, Institute of International Visual Arts (InVA).
  6. ^ Chandler, David, K. & Mercer, Kobena, 1997. Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains, Institute of International Visual Arts (InVA).
  7. ^ White, M., 2006. The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship, MIT Press.
  8. ^ Pauline de Souza, 'Rodney, Donald Gladstone (1961–1998)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  9. ^ Owusu, K., 2000. Black British Culture and Society: A Text Reader, Psychology Press.
  10. ^ "Iniva Relocating the remains archive". 
  11. ^ "New York New Museum's 'Relocating the remains' archive". 
  12. ^ "Uncomfortable Truths Review". 
  13. ^ "Migrations exhibition review". 
  14. ^ "BBC National Collection page". 
  15. ^ "Tate's artist page for Keith Piper". 
  16. ^ "Manchester Art Gallery page for Keith Piper". 
  17. ^ "Kieth Piper doctorate page at Wolverhampton University". 
  18. ^ "Kieth Piper bio page at Middlesex University". 

External links[edit]