Curated by Zak Ove
Running at the West Wing galleries in Somerset House until 15 September 2019, more than 100 artists featured – from visual artists and designers to musicians, sound artists, film-makers and writers. Significant historic artworks such as Sonia Boyce’s luminous love song to London, the collage-painting Talking Presence(1987), and a rare sculpture, Remember Me, from the artist and Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen, sits alongside work by some of the most dynamic younger artists working today, including the fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi.
Amanda and Will experienced the opening night, epic on all levels of Black excellence sharing the evening with artist Hassan Hajjaj and Photographer Oliva Rose, curator of Hennessey for the Culture; Tory Turk and a quick catch up with legend Charlie Philips the show in itself was enjoyed from a distance due to the immense crowds of people.
Ové has also discovered jewels in the archives, including a film of Blackblast, the first play performed at the ICA written by a black writer, Lindsay Barrett, staged by a black director, Horace Ové, and featuring an all-black cast. That performance of experimental theatre and African dance marked the moment when black art moved from the margins to the centre of British culture. Filmed by the BBC, it has rarely been seen since its first broadcast in 1973.
Designed by the groundbreaking Yinka Ilori, each exhibition room, the walls, wooden panelling, door and window frames and cornicing are picked out in contrasting tones with display cabinets decorated with repeat patterns based on circles and graphic blocks.
The show also incorporates a "temple to learning" created by Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk, complete with an Afrofuturist mural.
Books about black history and culture are available for visitors to browse, while the bespoke table and chairs are also designed by Ilori.
The intersection between creative practices is also explored. For example, Faisal Abdu'Allah works as a barber alongside his artistic practice. His gold-plated barber's chair recognises the barber's shop as a site of cultural exchange and camaraderie.
A series of films exploring topics of black identity and creativity are shown on a loop in a specially constructed screening room at the end of the exhibition and a number of talks and cultural events will take place during the run.
Amongst the more than 100 creatives with work on display are Turner Prize-winning artists Steve McQueen and Lubaina Himid, Scottish-born Trinidad-based painter Peter Doig, and artist Yinka Shonibare.
One of the show’s opening works includes award-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen’s poignant Remember Me, his first work about the violent and premature death of a young Grenadian man
Alongside visual art, black creatives' contribution to the music and film scene is also represented, including work by the curator's father Horace Ové – the creator of the first feature film by a black British director, 1975's Pressure.