Ryan Gander, Ikea tables. (c) Ryan Gander

Project to boost contemporary art in the north of England

Nicola Sullivan, 26.08.2015
Museum and gallery professionals will debate funding cuts
A series of cultural events will take place as part of a new project that aims to develop and showcase contemporary art in the north of England.

The initiative North, delivered in partnership with the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, will present a programme of exhibitions, curator-led tours, artist development workshops and talks in multiple venues across Warrington on 2-31 October.

Among the highlights will be the exhibition The Dream of Modern Living, which will open at the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery on 2 October.

Curated by Paul Carey, the exhibition was inspired in part by the fact that Warrington was home to the first Ikea in England and will explore artists’ reactions to Ikea as a business, lifestyle and aesthetic. Their responses range from using Ikea products as art materials to reinterpreting the furniture, from attempting to live in-store or subverting the retailer’s catalogue.  

There will be a number of exhibitions dubbed "pavilions" that have been curated and put together by institutions based in the north of England, such as Platform A in Middlesbrough, Vane in Newcastle and the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.

A panel debate, taking place at the Pyramid Arts Centre in Warrington on 10 October, will see curators and museum and gallery directors discuss how cuts in public funding will impact artists and public institutions in the north of England. Among those taking part are: Eleanor Clayton, a curator at Hepworth Wakefield; Laurence Lane, the director of the International 3 in Salford and the Manchester Contemporary; Stephen Snoddy, the director of the New Art Gallery Walsall; and Tony Charles, the director of Platform A in Middlesbrough.
“The proposal was to make a strength of Warrington's position between two northern art 'super powers', Manchester and Liverpool, and to tie in directly with the existing festival as a partner. The aim is not to displace the creativity and organisations that exist already but to draw them together with the hope to build on existing strengths for the future,” said Will Lunn, the lead curator of North.

“The project has grown quite organically out of a desire to do something with what we see as the the growing strength of institutions across the north of England.”
Lunn also said he hoped the project would inspire greater confidence among artists and art professionals in Warrington, some of who said they felt overshadowed by bigger cities like Liverpool and Manchester.

“We can do something that is bigger than people expect in Warrington and we can get some artists here from the north of England who are really quite established," he said.

North has been funded by an Arts Council England grant secured by the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival.