Made In Britain: Contemporary Art from the British Council Collection 1980 – 2010 is a touring exhibition created in partnership with the Sichuan Provincial Museum, Xi’an Art Museum, Hong Kong Heritage Museum and Suzhou Museum.
This exhibition will provide the first opportunity for audiences in the four regional cities in China to see original art works by leading British contemporary artists, and the works included in the display were specifically selected by Chinese curators working closely with the British Council’s Visual Arts Department.
Launching at the Sichuan Provincial Museum in Chengdu on 17 December, the exhibition features over 50 works by a wide range of artists, including Keith Arnatt, Helen Chadwick, Peter Doig, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Cornelia Parker and Mark Wallinger, reflecting the breadth and diversity of British art throughout the 30 year period 1980-2010.
Within the period since 1980 which the exhibition covers, enormous shifts have taken place in the role which art plays within British society. From Gilbert & George’s Intellectual Depression (1980) to Gary Hume’s Sister Troop (2009), this exhibition tells the story of how art has mapped and reflected these changes – and indeed been at the very forefront of social change itself.
Contemporary art in the UK has undeniably taken on a more socially engaged position in British society over the past three decades. Some of this shift can be attributed to the arrival of a new, entrepreneurial and ambitious generation of artists in the early 1990s, collectively known as the YBAs (Young British Artists) and including artists such as Michael Landy, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, and Gillian Wearing.
Other factors, such as the introduction of the Turner Prize in 1984 (the first prize to be awarded to young contemporary artists in the UK); the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 (the first dedicated public gallery for modern and contemporary art in the UK); the elision of art, advertising and the creative industries, particularly following the launch of the Saatchi Gallery in 1985; and the abolition of admission charges to UK public galleries and museums in 2001, have all played their part in bringing contemporary art to far larger audiences than ever before – often audiences with no prior experience or knowledge of the visual arts.