The British Art Show (BAS8) is a touring exhibition organised by Hayward Touring every five years. Launched in Leeds in October 2015, it travelled to Edinburgh and Norwich before its arrival in Southampton in October 2016, at the John Hansard Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery. It showcases work from UK-based artists that are making a significant contribution to UK contemporary art, both nationally and internationally. The 42 artists who are involved include Turner prize winner Laura Prouvost, two artists who will be shown at the Venice Biennale next year, and a number of emerging artists. Twenty-six of the artists have created new works especially for the exhibition, making this the most ambitious British Art Show to date.
The show extends beyond the displaying of artwork. “Each city received £250k from the Arts Council Strategic Touring Fund (which supports Hayward Touring) which goes towards putting on a large education and events programme that accompanies BAS8,” explains Press & Marketing Officer Jack Lewis of the John Hansard Gallery.
We have over 30 events organised from our launch on 9 October through to 15 January 2017, both in the venues and around the city. We will have world-leading artists giving talks, in Southampton, about their artistic practice, which is incredible.
In addition to the two main sites, works will be displayed in a number of offsite venues including Highfield Campus and the Bargate Monument.
Hayward Touring is really keen on bringing the show out of standard spaces and pulling it into each host city, in order that the city owns it. We have a cutting-edge film made by two internationally-renowned artists going into the Bargate Monument, which has been closed for a couple of years. The film has been made with a local youth group in Southampton, SoCo Music Project led by Matt Salvage, and will be having its world première at BAS8. It demonstrates that this is more than an art show. We are touching a new audience, which is great. The show fuels community education and engagement.
With an emphasis on legacy, new digital platforms will ensure that content generated at the show will be captured for future viewers. Interviews with artists, videos streamed live from artists’ talks and an active blog will be key in both allowing people to reference back to the show and helping bring content to a wider audience.
Running concurrently with the main show will be BAS8 Southampton Fringe. Funded through an Arts Council grant of £75k, the Fringe will present 24 new projects from local artists in venues dotted around the city.
“It is a huge accolade that we were chosen as one of the four cities to host BAS8 – Southampton being chosen for the third time, which is very unusual. Hayward Touring could see that we have a lot going on in Southampton and a very active arts community that will engage with this and take it in all sorts of ways,” says Jack. There will also be economic benefits. BAS7 attracted over 420,000 visitors in its four host cities. The net additional expenditure as a result of the Show was estimated at £3.6m within one host city.
A new home for John Hansard
With over 100,000 people anticipated to visit the Show in Southampton, there could not be a better way of bringing the curtain down on the John Hansard Gallery’s current home before its move to Studio 144 in the city centre. As Stephen Foster, Director, John Hansard Gallery, says, “The fact that BAS8 is the last exhibition in John Hansard Gallery’s 38-year history of exhibiting at the University of Southampton Highfield Campus before moving to new premises in the city centre in 2017, will be a testament to its history, and a marker for things to come.”
Studio 144 will be at the heart of Southampton’s cultural quarter of museums, galleries, theatres and music venues, situated around Guildhall Square, and presents exciting opportunities.
The new space within Studio 144 is triple the size of the current John Hansard Gallery. That bigger space and foothold in the city will enable us to think on a bigger scale. We can continue the sort of partnerships that we are building through BAS8. The University will be able to use our new building to really shout about the arts they support, and connect Highfield with the town.
“We also want to be seen as a place for regional artists to come and work with us, alongside our world-leading presentations. We are a space that is for everybody and we want local artists and the community to know that,” continues Jack. He believes that the design and location of the new space should help. “Some people feel a little overwhelmed by Highfield Campus, and the Gallery itself, where you can’t see what is inside until you walk through the door. In town, people will be able to look in through the huge studio windows and see what is going on and be tempted inside. It is a small thing but it will make a huge difference.”
Louise Coysh, Associate Director of Arts and Culture for the University, agrees that the approach must be all-inclusive. She has been working with Culture Southampton – the city’s development trust – to define and cultivate the University’s role in contributing to Southampton’s city-wide cultural aspirations, including the opening of Studio 144. “My vision centres on showcasing the extraordinary work we already do in terms of the arts, but to also communicate that the arts are for everyone. Collectively, we want people to have access to the arts, to be inspired by them and to develop new opportunities that allow more people to become actively involved,” she says.
Southampton Cultural Development Trust are readying a bid for City of Culture 2029, explaining why Southampton is a city to watch. Based on developments over the next 12 months, they have a strong case. In the more immediate future, there is the small matter of delivering a world-leading travelling art show for 100,000 visitors.