Team wins bid for region’s first major art show at Venice Biennale

A first of its kind project to showcase East Midlands artists at one of the world’s most prestigious exhibitions is expected to inspire a new generation of practitioners, curators and art-lovers.

Members of EM15
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Members of EM15
Emerging artists will benefit from career changing opportunities.

Marjolijn Brussaard

A first of its kind project to showcase East Midlands artists at one of the world's most prestigious exhibitions is expected to inspire a new generation of practitioners, curators and art-lovers.

A joint partnership of regional arts organisations – including Nottingham Trent University's School of Art & Design, New Art Exchange, One Thoresby Street, Beacon Art Project and QUAD - will produce and install a range of visual artworks at the 56th Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.

The project – supported by a £134,000 investment from Arts Council England's Grants for the arts programme– will be the first time the East Midlands has exhibited contemporary art at the event on a major scale in the international arena. With a curatorial principle of leisure, an entire pavilion will be dedicated to works commissioned from the region.

Among them will be Doug Fishbone's Leisure Land Golf – a fully playable, artist-designed miniature golf course in which nine internationally-recognised artists (listed below) have been invited to create their golfing green responses to the principle.

In addition, 40 emerging artists with links to the East Midlands have been commissioned to create a virtual dialogue between Venice and the region through an on-line exhibition called Sunscreen, which will include the creation of a screensaver as a response to the wider curatorial theme. Virtual gallery tours, GPS walking tours and artist talks will also take place.

A publication – which will include a commissioned essay by commentator and award-winning broadcaster Ekow Eshun - will promote and critically contextualise the artists and curators on show.

The group – named EM15 – will also provide scholarships to students and select regional artists to help produce, invigilate and organise activities.

The Leisure Principle will consider the concept of tourism and trade as a metaphor to explore current global economic complexities, and how the consumption of it shapes our identity.

Marjolijn Brussaard, dean of the university's School of Art & Design, which is the lead academic partner on the project, said: "This is a major opportunity which will have a long-lasting impact on visual art in the East Midlands. It has the potential to change the way in which people perceive contemporary art and will help cement the region as a one of the main creative and cultural forces of the UK. Emerging artists will benefit from career changing opportunities which will help them learn, network and aspire to new levels, and build more substantial proposals for international arts festivals. It will truly help connect the East Midlands globally, engaging diverse cultures and instigating new ideas in art."

Skinder Hundal, executive producer of EM15 and CEO of New Art Exchange, said: "New Art Exchange is delighted with the funding decision from Arts Council England. This investment ensures that the EM15 partnership will be able to present Doug Fishbone's Leisure Land Golf group show and the Sunscreen digital project, curated by an Nottingham Trent University alumna in Candice Jacobs, as part of Biennale Arte 2015. It is a significant platform, which over time will benefit the arts ecology for our region, opening up numerous international exchanges and new collaboration opportunities."

Louise Clements, artistic director of QUAD, said: "The EM15 collaboration is a truly ambitious and international initiative, it is a major project that responds to international concerns while being rooted in the East Midlands region. The EM15 exhibitions and programmes focus on commissioning significant artists to make new work and on supporting professional practice programmes alongside innovative digital engagement initiatives. EM15 marks the start of a long term partnership plan to develop and build programmes for future biennale editions."

Candice Jacobs, of One Thoresby Street, said: "Sunscreen will develop a new international engagement with the networks that exist within the East Midlands region and aims to encourage a culture of collecting. By distributing the works for free, we hope that the digital artworks will be exhibited in people's homes, places of work and on personal laptops in cafes around the world, and that conversations are initiated around the context of artwork being displayed in this way."

Brian Ashley, director, Nottingham, Art Council England, said: "The Arts Council is committed to supporting the creation of new work and nurturing emerging talent. The Venice Biennial is an important platform for cultural exchange and I'm delighted that this investment in the EM15 partnership will see the wealth of artistic talent we have here in the East Midlands seen by audiences on a global stage, as well as offering artists based in the region critical opportunities to build an international profile."

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    Press enquiries please contact Chris Birkle, Press Officer, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 2310, or via email; or Helen Breese, Media Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    Artists who have already confirmed involvement in the scheme are Doug Fishbone, Yinka Shonibare MBE, John Akomfrah, Hetain Patel, Lindsay Seers, Yara El-Sherbini, Candice Jacobs, Ellie Harrison, Eyal Weizman.

    Picture caption, from left to right: Frank Abbot, Marjolijn Brussaard, Candice Jacobs, Sooree Pillay, Professor Terry Shave, Veronica Pickering, Abi Hubbard, Skinder Hundal, Feng-Ru Lee.

    Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries - from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Team wins bid for region’s first major art show at Venice Biennale

Published on 3 April 2015
  • Category: Research; School of Art & Design

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