Bloomberg New Contemporaries comes to Firstsite


Firstsite in Colchester has today announced it will be the launch venue for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021, as part of the celebrations for its 10th anniversary year.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries is an annual exhibition that showcases the work of artists at the beginning of their careers.

It holds a vital role in the UK’s contemporary art scene, presenting emerging artists who have become some of the most internationally renowned artists of recent history. This includes post-war figures Frank Auerbach, Bruce Lacey and Paula Rego; pop artists Frank Bowling, Patrick Caulfield and David Hockney; new media pioneers Stuart Brisley, Helen Chadwick and Derek Jarman; YBAs Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili and Gillian Wearing; alongside contemporary figures such as Tacita Dean, Sunil Gupta, Mark Leckey and Mona Hatoum; the new millennium exceptional artists including Monster Chetwynd, Rachel Maclean, Haroon Mirza, Laure Prouvost and Lynette Yiadom Boakye; and more recently a new generation including Hardeep Pandhal, Joanna Piotrowska, Shen Xin and Imran Perretta.

75 artists* have been selected for the 2021 exhibition – from final year students and recent graduates of UK arts institutions to practitioners on alternative peer-to-peer learning programmes – demonstrating the resilience of the creative process in a challenging year. They will all participate in the annual exhibition and the newly launched digital platform as well as having access to digital residences and projects, studio bursaries, mentoring, talks and workshops.

One of those included is Essex artist Elsa James, whose Black Girl Essex exhibition was staged at Firstsite in 2019. She was also co-curator of Firstsite’s Super Black exhibition in the same year.

The rigorous two-part selection process was headed by a panel of three internationally renowned artists comprising Hew Locke, Tai Shani and Michelle Williams Gamaker.

Visitors will have the chance to see a huge variety of artworks, from Lydia Pettit’s Trouble in the House (2020), a two metre embroidered fabric glove which explores the experiences of living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Noemi Conan’s drawing Boruta (2021) in which a mundane scene from a Polish roadside collides with Polish mythology. Installations, sculptures, films, moving image and video games are also presented in this exhibition, bringing together a diverse selection of creative reflections and responses to living in current times, and in particular the global pandemic.

Kirsty Ogg, Director, New Contemporaries, says, “Covid-19 is the toughest challenge of a generation. Artists’ lives and livelihoods have been severely impacted by the precarity of the pandemic with lockdown measures preventing access to studios, materials, and peer networks as well as the postponement or cancellation of many graduate shows and work opportunities. Today, more so than ever, it is vital for New Contemporaries to support and to give a platform to emerging and early career artists, many of whom are directly addressing issues of equality, diversity and social justice in response to these times. The practice of curating is very much a practice of connection. It allows us to foster a sense of closer proximity at a time when so many artists have lost their support structures. I would especially like to thank our selectors, whose overwhelming generosity will enable 75 New Contemporaries artists to be supported by us and their achievements celebrated by all.”

Firstsite Director Sally Shaw MBE says: “We are absolutely delighted to continue our 10th anniversary year celebrations by hosting the launch of the hugely influential and inspiring Bloomberg New Contemporaries – which will open just before our building’s 10th birthday event! This collection of work, produced under the most difficult of circumstances – demonstrates the ingenuity, resilience and talent of this diverse group of artists and will provide a show which celebrates creativity and encourages us to explore new perspectives and ideas, which is just what is needed right now.”

After Firstsite, the show will travel to the South London Gallery (10 December 2021 – 20 February 2022).

New Contemporaries alumni, Kara Chin and Maya Campbell, along with New Contemporaries 21 artist Elsa James have also been involved in Firstsite’s Holiday Fun programme for summer 2021. The artists have been delivering art activities to families during the school holidays as part of Firstsite ground-breaking programme to provide free days out full of creativity, movement and nutrition to families who receive benefits based free school meals.

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