The final exhibition from the British Council Collection at the Whitechapel Gallery focuses on art made in response to conflict and war. Entitled Fall Out, it has been selected by Theodor Ringborg (26) from Stockholm, Sweden, who was the winner of the British Council’s international competition to find 'The Fifth Curator'.
The four previous exhibitions drawn from the British Council Collection have been curated by well-known figures in the art world: Michael Craig-Martin; Tim Marlow; Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane; and Paula Rego. Each has taken a completely individual stance: Michael Craig-Martin focusing on ‘great early buys’; Tim Marlow on sculpture’s gradual dematerialisation from the mid 1960s to today; Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane on the look and feel of Britain’s urban landscape; Paula Rego on the narrative thread that runs throughout British art in the 20th century.
To select the fifth and final display, the British Council, in partnership with the Whitechapel Gallery, initiated an international competition to find a young curator living outside Britain. The aim of the competition was to give aspiring curators an opportunity to work with one of the most significant collections of British art in the UK. Six candidates were shortlisted (from Egypt, Israel, South Africa, Japan, India and Sweden), and each spent a week in London working with the Whitechapel and the British Council to develop their ideas. Following a day-long presentation of the finalist’s proposals to a jury of leading art world figures, Theodor Ringborg was selected as the winner.
Fall Out spans 90 years of artistic engagement with the war and conflict, from Paul Nash’s energetic lithographs (1918) produced from his sketches of the front line at Ypres, to Mat Collishaw’s Deliverance Daguerreotype’s (2008) inspired by reportage images from the 2004 school siege in Beslan, Russia.
Theodor Ringborg said of his choice of works:
From the perspective of Sweden, a neutral country for 200 years, it is striking how much of everyday life in Britain is populated by references to conflict and war; from museums to public memorials. This is substantially reflected in the British Council Collection, where you can see a powerful tradition of ‘war art’, developing from the early 20th Century through to the present day.
Paintings, drawings and photographs by George Rodgers, Henry Moore, Albert Richards and Rodrigo Moynihan depict the realities of the Second World War seen from close quarters; the 'Geometry of Fear' sculptures by Kenneth Armitage and Reg Butler express the anxiety and uncertainty of the aftermath and the works of Paul Seawright, Michael Sandle and Lea Andrews address the subject of remembrance and memorial.
Also on display are works by Mona Hatoum, Colin Self, Tim Head, Rita Donagh and Simon Norfolk, which offer contemporary engagements with conflict as artistic reportage, protest and a climate of fear that dominates popular and media culture.
Fall Out: War and Conflict in the British Council Collection will be on display from 26 March to 30 May 2010 at the Whitechapel Gallery.