Featuring: Armet Francis, Black Audio Film Collective, Charlie Phillips, Dennis Bovell, Ebony G Patterson, Gaika, Glenn Ligon, Hank Willis Thomas, Hassan Hajjaj, Horace Ové, Jenn Nkiru, Larry Achiampong, Margaret Busby, Ronan McKenzie, Vanley Burke, Yinka Shonibare, with a specially commissioned soundtrack by Jillionaire of Major Lazer.
This summer, Somerset House celebrates the past 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, in a major new exhibition spanning art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion. Beginning with the radical Black film maker Horace Ové and his dynamic circle of Windrush generation creative peers, and extending to today’s brilliant young Black talent globally, a group of around 100 interdisciplinary artists will showcase work together for the first time, exploring Black experience and influence, from the post-war era to the present day. Whether established or emerging, all contributors have been specially selected for actively shaping cultural life in Britain and beyond. In this multi-sensory experience, historic works and new commissions will sit alongside items from personal archives, much of which has never been seen by the public before, tracing more than half a century of collective history.
Curated by artist Zak Ové, Get Up, Stand Up Now starts with the work of his father, Horace Ové, creator of the first feature film by a Black British director, and his creative circle who were part of what is now known as the Windrush generation. Together they spearheaded a new cultural wave in 1960s and 1970s Britain, which drew on their African-Caribbean heritage and their experiences in their new home. Their work created ripples of change, inspiring successive generations, who, as a result, have articulated their truths in challenging and innovative ways. Through cultural exchanges and collaborations across the African diaspora, these trailblazing creatives continue to change the consciousness of British society today. Curator Zak Ové has invited each artist to exhibit for becoming a true groundbreaker of their generation and their genre.
Numerous works will be created especially for the exhibition, championing the wealth of contemporary Black creative talent. Highlights confirmed include an original soundtrack by Trinidadian DJ, producer and member of Major Lazer, Jillionaire, which will be streamed throughout the exhibition space. Participating Somerset House Studios residents, including artist Larry Achiampong, musician Gaika and film maker Jenn Nkiru (who worked on Jay Z’s and Beyoncé’s APESH*T), will also present new pieces for the show.
Somerset House is extremely proud to have unprecedented access to the archives of key contributors to post-war Black culture, such as photographers Charlie Phillips, Armet Francis and Vanley Burke, and artist Aubrey Williams, a founding member of the Caribbean Artists Movement. With original photographs, letters, films and audio clips, the exhibition unearths the creative, the personal and the political in their lives, and charts the climate of their times. Much of this material has never previously been shared with the public.
Contributing artist Jillionaire said: “Caribbean people have always been storytellers, whether through film, dance, visual arts, music or literature. Their stories have had formative - and transformative - impact on UK culture, from the calypsos of the 50s and 60s heralding the birth of British Black Music to Horace's 'Pressure' cementing him in history as the first Black British filmmaker, to the unique visual language of Zak's beautiful statues.
“We now have the unique opportunity of bringing the past and present together in a single frame, allowing us not just to compare and contrast the work of father and son, but to walk the bridge that connects their work. From the past to the present, from the Caribbean to the Motherland, from the old to the new, from film to sculpture to music, I am excited to participate in this journey of cultural exploration.”
Get Up, Stand Up Now forms a focal point for an incredible summer at Somerset House celebrating the contribution of different cultures on our country. These themes will extend out from the galleries into the courtyard, through the stand-out Summer Series with American Express and Film4 Summer Screen line-ups, and through the exhibition Kaleidoscope. Curated by Ekow Eshun and Darrell Vydelingum, this free show in the Terrace Rooms reveals stories of immigration and identity in modern Britain.
An extensive talks and events programme will further illustrate how much there is still to learn, share and connect. Highlights include the launch of 100 Great Black Britons, a public poll to recognise history’s most influential Black people, on Windrush Day on 22 June. Initially set up in 2004, the vote was organised by Patrick Vernon in response to the absence of Black people in the top 100 of the BBC's Greatest Briton list. At Get Up, Stand Up Now, exhibition visitors will be able to cast their vote for the first time in 15 years. In addition, Somerset House’s Creative Careers Academy – an initiative to provide London Living Wage work placements to talented young people who are under-represented in the creative and cultural sector – will be offering a placement connected to Get Up, Stand Up Now, giving insight into production, education and curation.