Art / Exhibitions

Bedrooms of London

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This exhibition of photographs by Katie Wilson documents the living conditions of London’s most disadvantaged children. It stands firmly within the mission of the Foundling Museum, in what was the Foundling Hospital set up by Thomas Coram in 1741. Coram’s purpose was to care for the estimated 1,000 children who were abandoned every year in London, resulting from the polarisation of wealth in the Georgian era. Today the site houses a museum and boasts the legacy of being the first children’s charity and public gallery.

In defence of degenerate art

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The so called “alt-right” project is an attempt to throw an ideological blanket over a range of deeply reactionary political tendencies. These range from racist right wing “mainstream” conservatives (such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg in Britain), to far-right populists (like US president Donald Trump and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán) and outright fascists (such as Marine Le Pen in France and Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache).

Fernand Leger: New Times, New Pleasures

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Tate Liverpool is currently hosting a major exhibition of the work of Fernand Léger.

Léger (1881–1955) is one of the 20th century’s great modernist artists. He worked in a diverse range of media which the exhibition successfully brings together with abstract and figurative paintings, a large-scale mural, films, graphic designs, drawings, books and textiles.

A woman who created and recorded history

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A fascinating new exhibition in east London shows the work of suffragette and photographer Norah Smyth. The images, mostly taken from 1914 to 1916, record the work of the East London Federation of Suffragettes. They are on loan from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam and are displayed together for the first time.

Martin Parr: Return to Manchester

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Almost 50 years ago, the teenage Martin Parr came up north to Manchester Polytechnic where he learnt his trade as a photographer, shooting in black and white. He looked for people, often managing to get close to them. He hung out in the city centre, Piccadilly Gardens, where he found young couples and fans of the Osmonds willing to pose for him. He explored every Yates’ Wine Lodge in the area on weekday dinner times, often rather sad places.

“We needed to write our own history”

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Known as the “Godfather of Black British Photography”, Vanley Burke was born in Jamaica and moved to Birmingham in 1965 at the age of 14. He spoke to Birmingham poet Kurly about his life, his photography, how communities had to respond to racism after immigrating, and his new exhibition at Birmingham Cathedral for Black History Month, Being Built Together.

How were things when you arrived in the UK compared with where you were brought up?

Heads Roll

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In the age of the selfie and endless posts of faces on social media, what can the artistic portrait tell us about how we see ourselves and others?

Sheffield-based artist Paul Morrison, who is well known for his often unsettling pictures of plants and horticultural subjects, looks at a completely different genre of art in Heads Roll, which he has curated.

Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land

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Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land sidesteps reductionistic or didactic discourse, instead offering viewers concrete and politically engaged routes into a complex history. The British Library brings us a commendably detailed account of the history of what has become known as the Windrush Generation. It is an account which acknowledges this history as one defined by oppression, racism and resistance.

London 1938

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“We will from now on lead an unrelenting war of purification...against the last elements which have displaced our Art.” With these words mirroring his views on race, Adolf Hitler opened his exhibition Entartete Kunst or Degenerate Art in Munich in 1937. This was the centrepiece of his campaign against modernism, a movement which he loathed and regarded as undermining the Aryan values central to Nazi ideology.

Truth is in the eye of the editor

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A decade of austerity and political crisis has led to a revival of interest in documentary photography. The cynicism about photography’s ability to expose truths about society, prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s, has waned. In its place is a growing awareness of the power of socially engaged photographic practices.

Inevitably, past examples are looked to as models, and the photography of the depression era of the 1930s is perhaps the most significant.

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