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Migrations: Journeys into British Art - gallery guide

Exhibition guide relating to an exhibition, 2012
Published by: Tate
Year published: 2012

image of Migrations: Journeys into British Art - gallery guide

A6 sized, folded-down brochure that accompanied the gallery guide for Migrations: Journeys into British Art, Tate Britain, 31 January - 12 August 2012. One side of the opened-up brochure featured a plan of the exhibition’s various components, and brief introductions to each section: Portraiture and New Genres; Italy, Neoclassicism and the Royal Academy; Dialogues between Britain, France and America; Jewish Artists and Jewish Art; Refugees from Nazi Europe; Artists in Pursuit of an International Language; The Dematerialised Object; New Diasporic Voices, and The Moving Image. The plan of the exhibition’s various components is intended to enable the visitor to navigate the exhibition in a chronological fashion, as well as enabling them to make the most use of the commentaries by three well-known public figures, whose contributions are featured on the other side of the gallery guide.

The guide begins with, “The exhibition explores how migration into this country has shaped the course of art in Britain over the last 500 years. Taking the form of selected ‘moments’ drawn from the Tate Collection - from 16th-century Flemish portrait painters, who came in search of new patrons, to moving image works from the early years of this century - Migrations traces both the movement of artists and the circulation of visual languages and ideas. In so doing, the exhibition raises fundamental questions about the formation of a national collection of British art against a continually shifting demographic.”

On the reverse of the gallery guide, the three commentaries appear, offered by Bonnie Greer, Michael Rosen and Shami Chakrabati.

Amongst Greer’s comments in the gallery guide: “This exhibition demonstrates how, as an island, Britain has always been influenced by the migratory - the best ideas from abroad become incorporated in the culture. I want to encourage visitors to look at the wonderful pictures but also to think about a few significant moments.” Writing about the New Diaspora Voices section of the exhibition, Greer wrote, “This art is what drew me to London. I really believed and still do that we are looking at a renaissance. I was living in New York and I saw this happening and I thought, ‘I have to come to London - this is incredible.’ These artists are uncompromising. It was important they called themselves Black. It is not just about blackness racially - it is about ‘Blackout. Next Chapter.’ No one had done this before. This is the turmoil of being British of African descent and being urban, individual, non-aligned and insouciant. This is the seed of the YBAs. These artists had the nerve to say that Britishness is fluid, not fixed. Americans don’t challenge being American in this way.”

Amongst Chakrabati’s somewhat cryptic comments in the gallery guide:”This exhibition shows that it is contentious to talk about ‘British’ art at all. Art has no borders. I think it would almost be wrong if people got to walk on this journey without some hindrance. Migration is not a freewheeling exercise and visitors should be reminded of this. Rather than wandering freely they should be stopped at moments through the show. Sometimes this experience would be pleasant, sometimes unpleasant. It would be good to show that for most people, particularly people who are not middle class artists, migration can involve a struggle. But then - I would say something ridiculously political, wouldn’t I?”

Amongst Rosen’s comments in the gallery guide: Black Audio Film Collective, Handsworth Songs 1986 (in New Diasporic Voices) “Here there is a direct analogy in the poetry of James Berry and John Agard. Their experience in verse mirrors what these artists are tackling visually. Benjamin Zephaniah is from Handsworth and is writing about these experiences too.”

The back of the folded-down brochure contains other information relating to the exhibition, credits, and other aspects of Tate Britain, such as Tate Members and Tate Patrons.


Related people

»  Shami Chakrabarti

Born, 1969 in London

»  Bonnie Greer OBE

Born, 1948 in Chicago

»  Michael Rosen

Born, 1946 in Harrow, London

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Tate Britain

London, United Kingdom