Monday 8 December 2008

I liked the John Singer Sargents....

Nottingham's got a new art gallery: Nottingham Contemporary. For what seems like ages, it's slowly been taking shape on the very edge of the Lace Market. Initially it was just a big excavation; then a building slowly began to take shape; then a distinctive cladding was added, embossed with a Victorian lace pattern. By all accounts, it's going to be a fantastic addition to the cultural life of the city.

Here's what they have to say about themselves:

"Nottingham Contemporary will be an international art centre with a strong local sense of purpose. It believes artists today offer extraordinary perspectives on contemporary society. It will act as a dynamic intellectual catalyst for all sorts of people, through its exhibitions, its partnerships and its educational programme. It is an open, inclusive organisation that will share its physical, virtual and philosophical spaces with as many people as possible. It will be a social and cultural centre, welcoming local, regional, national and international visitors. Nottingham Contemporary will imagine the world differently."

We're already fairly well served with venues and theatres, but the addition of a really interesting art centre sounds like a great idea to me.

They have grand aspirations too:

"Although we will occupy an iconic building, our purpose is the critical examination of life outside its walls. Our significance will lie not just in what we contain, but in how we interact. We will be a contemporary art centre that examines contemporary society, and we will share our physical, virtual and philosophical spaces with as many people as possible."

I'm not sure if it's formally open yet, but when I walked past it on Friday night, I noticed that there was a billboard outside it advertising an exhibition they were hosting at the nearby Galleries of Justice, the deserted former gaol built into the rock of the Lace Market itself. I stopped to have a closer look:

"Sixteen international artists become “inmates” in The Impossible Prison, an exhibition in an atmospheric abandoned police station. Inspired by 'Discipline and Punish', the extraordinarily influential book by the philosopher Michel Foucault, the exhibition explores power, control and surveillance, increasingly a part of all our lives."

Oh excellent. I had no idea it was going to be one of those sorts of galleries. I love a bit of conceptual subversion, me....


  1. (although, to be fair, the exhibition is inspired by Foucault's observation that "Prison these days begins long before the prison gates" - which, in this era of surveillance and ID cards and Anti-Terror Laws seems very apt indeed)

  2. I visited that exhibition last Friday, on my day off. Way too much low-res "video art" for my liking, but the cumulative effect of the various installations coupled with the unvarnished authenticity of the location (right down to the remand prisoners' graffiti on the cell walls) added up to a suitably creeped-out feeling by the end of it.

    MUCH better, and to my mind absolutely unmissable, is the current exhibition by Duncan Higgins in Trent Uni's Bonington Gallery: 1600 miniature paintings hung in neat columns and rows, spanning one vast wall, depicting scenes from the artist's visit to a remote settlement in northern Russia, just below the Arctic Circle. I can't praise it too highly.