Art / Exhibitions

Strange and Familiar

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Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, curated by renowned photographer Martin Parr, is a fascinating investigation into the social, political and cultural lives of working class people in Britain from the 1930s to the present.

Some 250 photographs are on display taken by 23 different photographers. What links them is that none are British. These photographers came to Britain to capture the lives of the “ordinary”. As outsiders they brought a new and fresh perspective on the everyday life of working people.

Conceptual Art in Britain, 1964-1979

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The assistant curator told me to pick up an orange. So I did. Because this is conceptual art. The orange was part of a sculpture intended to make us think about art as something to be consumed — if not it will decay, be good for nothing. Art depends on active participation, in this case the consumption of an orange, the conversion of matter into energy.

How is that art? It is not an art object as we knew it — the idea is now the thing. This is art as a question: firstly questioning the very nature of art and secondly art as a valid medium for questioning its context.

I Am The Greatest

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Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest boxers of all time. He won the world heavyweight championship four times — a record he still holds. This exhibition takes you through his life, centring on his fights, but it also celebrates his resistance to the war in Vietnam and racism in society.

After a short film a maze of corridors leads us from Ali’s Louisiana childhood in the 1940s through to his comeback in the 70s. He grew up as Cassius Clay and changed his name in 1964 to X before being given the name Muhammad Ali by Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

East London Group: Out of the City

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The core of the East London Group of artists were East End workers — “a warehouseman, a house decorator, three deck hands waiting for a ship, and a haddock smoker”. They met in classes at the Bethnal Green Men’s Institute and exhibited their paintings from the late 1920s to the late 1930s.

They were best known for their landscapes of the East End, painting the streets and buildings of Bethnal Green, Bow and Stratford, the canals and bridges around the Thames and some of the big workplaces such as the Bryant and May match factory.

Dinh Q le: The Colony

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Thirteen miles off the coast of Peru lie the Chincha Islands, three small islands inhabited by large numbers of seabirds. These birds produce what became an incredibly valuable and sought after natural resource among competing imperialist powers during the mid-19th century. Large deposits of bird excrement, known as guano, built up over the islands. This guano is rich in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium and therefore makes a great fertiliser.

Hieronymus Bosch: visionary of change

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Hieronymus Bosch was known as “the devil maker”. In honour of the 500th anniversary of his death the exhibition Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius is taking place at his birthplace in the Netherlands.

His paintings are inhabited by all kinds of wretched creatures and monsters. People sometimes assume the artist was on some kind of medieval acid because of his overwhelming web of illusions and hallucinations. Yet his works are filled with a deeper meaning. Bosch presents a piercing vision of society for everyone to see.

Monuments Should Not Be Trusted

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This exhibition of work by artists in former Yugoslavia has been curated by Lina Džuverović.

It brings together over 30 leading artists and groups from the “golden years” of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — the period between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s.

There is a striking collage by Avgust Černigoj from 1972 of anti Vietnam War protesters and a cartoonish, ghoulish face wearing a Stars and Stripes bandana with the name “Nixon”.

Artist and Empire

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At first the idea of an exhibition of art relating to the British Empire sounds deeply off-putting. Is it a collection of images celebrating imperial conquest? While it does contain such paintings, Artist and Empire is doing something more complex and more interesting.

Its opening room concentrates on the justification for empire. It contains many maps, while the second has studies of plants, people and landscapes.

Works To Know By Heart: An Imagined Museum

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The year is 2666 and art galleries are empty. The government has decided what they contained was subversive (and the cash from the sale of the artworks would help the economy). A group of people meet to view grainy photos of the lost works so they can survive at least in the memories of people who can share them with others.

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