At A Glance: British Art Show 9

Alberta Whittle  Celestial Meditations, 2018  © the artist. Courtesy of Alberta Whittle and Copperfield, London.

From Windrush heroes to club culture to talking dogs: all you need to know about the upcoming British Art Show 9…


British Art Show 9 (#BAS9). As in, the ninth version: it’s been introducing us to new British artists every five years or so since 1979.

First impressions:

A massive, chaotic and pretty lively showcase of 47 artists from all four corners of the UK, touring to a venue near you – if you live near Aberdeen, Manchester, Wolverhampton or Plymouth – from July. In our first summer of art in what feels like 3000 years, expect a lot of film and a lot of reflection. And some laughs.

Why should I care?

Taking the temperature of art from 2015 to now, via Brexit, Covid and Black Lives Matter, how could you not care? The new work I’ve seen so far is either taking a very sensitive look at real life, or taking the piss. Which is probably what I need right now.

Expect award-winning and mid-career artists who’ve made noise over those previous five years. BAS artists – like Monster Chetwynd and Wolfgang Tillmans – usually go on to the Turner Prize. It’s like the BAFTAs predicting the Oscars.

Who’s in it then?

GAIKA, who’s making a monument to Black heroism called ZEMEL, after his Uncle Zemel, to immortalise the Windrush generation. Florence Peake’s been pressing wet clay over care workers’ bodies and dragging them out, leaving large crumpled sculptures behind in Crude Care. Simeon Barclay’s film With Small Forward is about Manchester’s infamous club culture. And Patrick Goddard’s film, Animal Antics, features a talking dog and his owner visiting a zoo and discussing the natural world – “They’re not kinky, Sarah, they’re monkeys.”

Marianna Simnett Blood in My Milk, 2018,  video still.  © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Matt’s Gallery.

What they say:

In preparation, the curators – Irene Aristizábal (BALTIC) and Hammad Nasar (Paul Mellon Centre) – went on a road trip to meet 230 artists in 23 cities. They cite their visit to Northern Ireland as fundamentally changing the shape of the show; journalist Lyra McKee had just been murdered. The trip exposed “cracks in the reality of the British nation” and the circumstances under which artists are working.

As a result, BAS artists have been asked to dip into three areas: ‘Care, healing, reparative history’; ‘Tactics for togetherness’; and ‘Imagining new futures’.

What you say:

What’s the talking dog called? Will the cinema seats be comfy? Will we have to book?


So many places, it’s a lot for my lockdown-mind to take in: opening at Aberdeen Art Gallery in July, then travelling in January next year to Wolverhampton’s Art Gallery and School of Art, then all over Manchester – at Castlefield Gallery, the CFCCA, HOME, Manchester Art Gallery and The Whitworth – and later to Plymouth – at KARST, The Levinsky Gallery, The Box and The Gallery. There’s also a colourful website with downloadable music, films and a publication.

Fave bits?

They’ll be different artists at different venues, adding a bit of local flavour. The film programme boasts a lot of moving image and a ‘black box’ in each city, showing a selection of films on a daily basis. Please god, let this be a sorely-missed cinematic experience rather than a hard-wooden-bench-in-a-cold-gallery deal.

Not so great bits?

They’ll be different artists at different venues, so you might miss the most interesting people. The website doesn’t have any of the promised downloadable music or videos on it, yet. And I can’t see any buttons to click to get updates of stuff happening nearest me.

Would you take your mates?


Describe it in three words:

Loud, critical, meditative.

Laura Robertson

See British Art Show 9 at participating venues from 10 July 2021 to 23 December 2022 – free entry. Expect social distancing rules to apply, and booking may be required @haywardgallery

#BAS9 dates for the diary:

Aberdeen 10 Jul–10 Oct 2021 @AbdnArtMuseums

Wolverhampton 22 Jan–10 Apr 2022 @WolvArtGallery @wlv_soa

Manchester 13 May–4 Sep 2022 @CastlefieldGall @CFCCA_UK @HOME_mcr @mcrartgallery @WhitworthArt

Plymouth 8 Oct–23 Dec 2022 @karstgallery @PlymUni @theboxplymouth @thegallery_pca

Read about Simeon Barclay and the Liverpool Biennial Associates

Images from top: Alberta Whittle, Celestial Meditations, 2018 © the artist. Courtesy of Alberta Whittle and Copperfield, London. Marianna Simnett, Blood in My Milk, 2018, video still. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Matt’s Gallery

Posted on 25/03/2021 by thedoublenegative