Contemporary – Somewhat Abstract

I din’t go to the last Art Show at Nottingham Contemporary – it was a bit too ‘bodily fluid’ orientated for my taste. I was sent a book of some of the art – and it challenges me even on a coffee book level.

Bridget Riley, Movement in Squares, 1962

Bridget Riley, Movement in Squares, 1962

But on Friday it was the opening night of the latest show – Somewhat Abstract. This is a much more ‘mainstream’ collection of pieces owned by the Arts Council – in fact this is the largest exhibition of their pieces outside London. There are 68 artists on show and eight are Turner Prize winners.

I was interested to learn about the Arts Council – It is a relatively young organisation – you can read the history here. It operates on a very tight budget – but has clearly purchased well. They now have the work of 2,162 artists and holds 7,747 artworks. Of these, approximately 1,500 are paintings and over 5,000 are works on paper, including photographs. The Collection includes 845 sculptures and 113 audiovisual works.

I liked this exhibition – some of the paintings are much more my sort of thing.

The opening party was well represented with the great and good of the city there. You do begin to realise the importance of this place on the map of Nottingham. Visitors numbers, we are told, are ahead of expectations and that we get the sort of quality art on show now demonstrates just how important Nottingham Contemporary is – on a local scale but also giving us national visibility.

It’s a show worth going to see!

Step away from the paintings, moth******er

I came home last night to this headline in my Nottingham Post


It seems that one of my local councillors, Georgina Culley, has come up with a cunning plan to sell off all of Nottingham’s art. I nearly fell off my armchair.

The story suggests,

“There is £75 million worth of artworks that the city owns but the council has no detailed catalogue of, nor can it tell us how much of this collection is, or has ever been, on display.

“Leader Jon Collins and deputy Graham Chapman are asking residents to pay more council tax again this year, asking our poorest residents to pay even more by reducing the council tax support the council provides and increasing rents, but the prospect of selling some of this massive collection has never even been debated.”

I am a city council ratepayer and this is possibly the worst idea I have heard in recent years. I fully accept that the Council is struggling to balance the books – it’s budgets are being cut by central government. There is a suggestion that the Government do want to get Councils to reduce their reserves so that the National Debt is reduced. Most people would agree that in the past there has been waste in our councils. But that is having to be addressed.

But selling our art?

Much of the art has been ‘held’ by the Council for hundreds of years. Some of it was gifted to the City. The collection contains some important local works. Art plays a key part in our rich cultural heritage. We even lent some piccies to the PM back in 2011 – read about that here.

But more importantly than all of this – you do need to remember that you will only sell it once. When it is gone, that’s it. No chance of the collection ever coming back together.

These works belong to the citizens of the city. They are not to be pawned by my local councillor who is looking for a headline.

Hands off Ms Culley.

Truly Inspiring. The NTU celebration show.

I was at an event last night at Nottingham Trent University. Putting to one side that I met Damon Albarn (who has consistently made awesome music!) this was a showcase event.


There are a number events through the year to celebrate 170 years of ‘continuous creative teaching’ at NTU. This was the first – and Damon and Paul Kaye (aka Dennis Pennis) spoke alongside the Vice Chancellor.

Then there was a cake to help the celebrations. I didn’t get to eat any – but it had been ‘baked’ by the winner of The Great British Bake Off – Frances Quinn. It turns out that Frances is an Alumni from NTU in 2006. bet you didn’t know that.

We had some great live music – in the form of Georgie Rose. She has been tipped for stardom – with Billy Bragg and K T Tunstall declaring themselves fans. Georgie is part of the fast-rising music scene in Nottingham. Read what Nottingham Contemporary said here. Jake Bugg step aside (although a million record sales is a high bar to set).

There was an exhibition of some of the work done by students – current and past. This was in the form of textiles, photography and sculpture. Some of the work was truly inspiring and really good. It seems that Nottingham has more artists per capita than any other European City. and a lot of them have passed through NTU.

NTU should be congratulated on putting together this show. It was a great event and timely reminder of an eco-system of talented folks we have here.

So it turns out that our suggestion that this is a Talented City is pretty much on the money. That is a key message our forthcoming trip to MIPIM.

But I also think it can create one of the key planks for our business plan.

Talented Nottingham. Check.

Happy Birthday Nottingham Contemporary!

On 14 November 2009 Nottingham Contemporary opened its doors to an exhibition of David Hockney’s early paintings. I can’t believe that 4 years have passed. And Nottingham Contemporary has become something of an Institution in the City. It is a critical part of the intellectual fabric of the place.



Since 2009 there have been 17 exhibitions featuring 220 artists from over 30 countries. That is an amazing achievement.

The gallery has become renowned in the UK and it has collected accolades:

“The UK’s most inspiring gallery” – The Guardian
“One of the UK’s strongest” – The Independent
“Constantly inventive” – The Observer

The last exhibition, Aquatopia, can now be seen at Tate St Ives.

I haven’t yet had chance to see the latest exhibition by Asco, a group of four Chicano artists who formed in East LA in the 70s and Geoffrey Farmer’s ambitious installation inspired by the life of Frank Zappa. But I clearly need to. It is on the list!

The 15th Nottingham Contemporary Exhibition

I was a guest at a dinner last night at the Nottingham Contemporary – before the food there was a chance to see the new exhibition which starts at the weekend. You can see that the food was a work of art in itself!


This one has been five years in gestation and is curated by Alex Farquharson in conjunction with Tate St Ives.

Aquatopia has a decidedly seaside feel. It is the story of how the ocean and its species have exercised the imagination across cultures and time.

There are over 150 pieces – including an amazing J W Turner painting from 1845 – Sunrise and Sea monsters.

I loved this exhibition – sometimes I struggle with the Contemporary and abstract stuff on show. But i think Alex has curated a really good show here. There is a really strong theme and some stunning pieces of art. The story of the ocean is brought to life, with the fantasy pieces sharing pedestals with real creatures.

The Oceans are vastly unexplored – it is reckoned we have only ‘discovered’ 10% of the worlds oceans – so there is a rich seam of material for those who make myths or have a wild imagination!

You should go and see this exhibition – Nottingham Contemporary continues to be a huge positive news story for Nottingham and this show is one of the best yet. The show runs until 22 September…

Nottingham Contemporary – the lunch

I played host at a lunch at Nottingham Contemporary this week. The Gallery was re-launching its Business Benefactors programme – now calling it The Business Circle.

Alex Farquharson launching the new Business Circle

Alex Farquharson launching the new Business Circle

There is a good reason for the re-launch. For every £1 raised on sponsorship / support the Gallery are given a matched £1 by Arts Council England.

I was asked to talk about why my firm, Innes England, became the first benefactor over three years ago.

We support the gallery for lots of reasons. And it’s around what Nottingham has to offer a story to the rest of the UK (and world?). Our creative industries and art are really important.

Chris Leslie MP for Nottingham East in his newsletter this week reporting on the Commons debate last week on the arts and creative industries, said:

It was a useful opportunity to note the importance to the UK of the arts and creative industries, with art and culture enriching the lives of individuals, reinforcing a sense of local community, and being vital to the economy, generating more than £36 billion a year and employing 1.5 million people.

That’s the National picture – but what about Nottingham Contemporary?

• In 3 ½ years its made an economic contribution of £30m
• It attracts tourism – 18% of visitors are from outside the conurbation
• It raises the profile of the City – in a positive way – the Haiti exhibition brought £3m of positive press
• It inspires young people – who we hope are the next creative leaders
• It’s an important part of the Creative Quarter

I concluded my brief talk by suggesting that the real reason we are supporters is that Nottingham Contemporary has been a huge success story for Nottingham – and it’s great being part of that success…

Nottingham Contemporary – new show!

I went to the Director’s Cut on Friday night. The latest show at the Nottingham Contemporary has arrived in Nottingham.


As is usual it’s a two part show. If I am honest I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this opening. The pre-shhow information didn’t fire me up and I was worried that some of the work was going to be too ‘conceptual’ for me! But I was pleasantly surprised.

John Newling’s work is the more difficult to explain. It revolves, in the main, around Miracle Trees and walking stick cabbages. Then there is a part about money – or rather the detritus from money. Newling took 50,000 2p coins and ‘cleaned’ the muck from them. The muck was weighed and the value of the muck was 7p. This was then put in some jars (see the picture). The art-philistine in me just asks, “why“.

But the surprise of the show was Piero Gillardi – much of which is expanded foam modelled into ‘natural’ objects and painted. This was really good and I could appreciate this much more. I though there was humour in the pieces. I liked the ‘nature carpets’ constructed in the early 1960′s. The live performance was more challenging – but I could run with it. Piero runs an ecological art gallery overlooking the former Fiat factory in Turin.

What was really impressive was the number of people at the first night of the show. The Contemporary was as busy as I have seen it. This is good for Nottingham!

I am still working on appreciating the art!

Happy Birthday Nottingham Contemporary

Despite my request that all birthday parties should (by law) have jelly and ice cream my request went unheeded. Although the chocolate cake was rather good. It was the Contemporary’s 3rd birthday this week!

If you have dropped here before you will know that I am a big supporter of Nottingham Contemporary – I think it gives Nottingham a USP. It has also exceeded all expectations in visitor numbers – 700,000 – 50% more than they thought at the outset. And it is estimated that the gallery has added £23m to the local economy since opening.

170 artists later – which has included Giacometti, Hockney and Arbus – more is to come. I know from speaking to Alex the Gallery Director in the past that exhibitions can be planned up to a year in advance. In some cases they are bidding for some huge shows… Hopefully great news on that front soon! In the next session though we’ll be getting JMW Turner and Peter Doig.

But just for the moment – there’s a great film – if you have a few minutes it’s a great advertisement for the Gallery.

It’s also a film we’ll be taking to MIPIM next year to show off the assets of the city.


Nottingham – hosting world art!

It looks like Nottingham will find a place on the world map next month.

Between the 7th and 16th September Nottingham will play host to the World Event Young Artists 2012. We are described by the organisers as a cultural city. I like this!

The event is billed as ‘A world of ideas in a week‘ – which is no understatement as our fair city plays host to music, gastronomy, visual arts, performance, film, literature and applied arts. It’s no small event – with 1,000 artists from 120 Nations plying their wares here for 10 days. What is really exciting for us is that its is the first event of its kind. It is intended to celebrate the talent and artistic excellence of young people from across the globe.

The artists are all aged between 18 and 30 and the event is part of the Cultural Olympiad. A painter and decorator, an acclaimed pioneer of Black folk music, a tweeting Town Crier and a Chinese computer game designer are among those performing!

This is more good news for Nottingham and a reinforcing of the importance of the creative heart of the City. Our newly formed creative quarter is gaining momentum. The presence of such a body of talent from around the world should do us no harm at all. I can’t wait to see what sort of events will take place.

The opening weekend celebrations include open air live music events and visual projections on the Market Square. Internationally renowned DJ Gilles Peterson will curate a day-long event at Nottingham Contemporary featuring a range of World Event Young artists and his own live set to close the evening.

A good news story for Nottingham….

Art – a huge talent

I wish I could paint. I imagine I can but when I start I regress to being 10 all over again!

When I was growing up I was always amazed to see Rolf Harris work his magic. It really was nothing short of magic to see these apparent random and quite messy brush strokes turn into a visible painting. He can somehow see what I can’t. I could work in this manner, but I suspect that what it looked like in the end would be nothing related to what I wanted it to!

The programme he and Anneka “stop the clock I’ve got the clue” Rice did on Bank Holiday Tuesday (the expensive one) was a great advert for some really talented people. Including the presenters! It seems Anneka wasn’t just rear of the year – she can paint too. Her picture was really good!

This was a programme about sixty people painting six decades of the Queens reign in different media. You can see the work here.

And the exhibition of the work is in the vaults of the Old Vic,under Waterloo Station for the next few days.

I was amused that Rolf is regarded as the UK’s most popular artist – much to the irritation of the fine art establishment! This I think is brilliant. Well done Rolf. A true artist! And a part of his painting is shown above – done with a toothbrush…


It was also mentioned to me that Rolf was rudely cut off in the Jubilee Concert by Lenny Henry – during his ‘Two Little Boys‘ rendition. I did think it was rather odd and ill-timed; do people not realise that Rolf is more than the UK’s most popular artist; he is a National Institution!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Anneka Rice, , Diamond Jubilee, Rolf Harris