Arts & Culture Exhibitions

British Museum announces collaboration with artist Hew Locke for major new exhibition

  • March 21, 2024
  • 3 min read
British Museum announces collaboration with artist Hew Locke for major new exhibition

The British Museum is collaborating with renowned Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke for a major new exhibition exploring how the Museum collection reflects the legacies of British imperial power, from the early modern period to the present day. This exciting co-curated exhibition will include well-known objects from across the collection alongside specially commissioned new works by Locke. The exhibition will be on the 17th October, 2024, until 9th February, 2025, at The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery (Room 35) in the British Museum.

Throughout his career Locke has had an intense fascination with objects and the stories they tell. His interest in the British Museum collection goes back to his days as a student in London when he would visit the Museum of Mankind (where the British Museum’s Ethnography Department was housed from 1970 to 1997) to draw from the collections. This will be Locke’s first artist-curated museum exhibition, and an opportunity for him to engage more deeply with a museum collection than previously in his career.

The British Museum’s history and collections are closely linked to those of the British Empire. The exhibition will examine these histories alongside a consideration of today’s often contentious and deeply felt debates around cultural heritage.

Focusing on Britain’s historic interactions with Africa, India, and the Caribbean, all of which had an impact on Guyana where Locke grew up, the exhibition will be his personal exploration using interventionist techniques to reframe the collection’s historical objects.

Locke is interested in exploring the messy and complex ways in which museums are implicated in histories of Empire and hopes to leave visitors with more questions than answers.

The British Museum has a long tradition of collaboration and co-curation, working with artistic partners to reconsider and recontextualise objects in the collections – most notably with Grayson Perry on The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman in 2011, and Eduardo Paolozzi on Lost Magic Kingdoms in 1985.

To curate the exhibition, Hew Locke and his partner and studio curator Indra Khanna have been visiting the British Museum over a two-year period viewing objects in the stores and study rooms and speaking with specialist curators. The themes of the exhibition have been developed collaboratively, reflecting the themes of Locke’s work and the Museum’s collections. Hew and Indra also used the British Museum’s online database of objects, Collection online, to search for objects that spoke to the themes and concerns of Locke’s artistic practice.

Image: Hew Locke photographed by John McKenzie © 2023 Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

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