Leading museums and artists invite the British public to take part in what they hope to be the largest art exhibition ever.
The Great Art Exhibition is visualized and launched by Sir Antony Gormley, who asks people to do art at home and install it outside their own window or garden.
Optimism And Imagination
The Angel of the North sculptor said the ambition was to create a country-wide show of imagination and optimism, inspired by the rainbow images people made to celebrate the NHS and keyworkers during the first lockdown.
Details of how to take part, including a free activity pack, are available from arts organisation FirstSite.
“At a time when all the theatres and galleries are shut it is wonderful to somehow tap into the extraordinary reservoirs of creativity in the country and celebrate the diversity of range and thought and feelings that exist,” Sir Antony said.
Theme Of The Art Exhibition
He nominated animals as the theme for the first two weeks of the Great Art Exhibition.
“We want to let the inner animal out,” he said. “People will find their inner animal… it could be a whale or a dinosaur”.
The sculptor has selected a number of pictures of animals that could be a useful source of guidance, including a rhinoceros painting by Albrecht Durer and a kangaroo painted with red ocher in a cave in Kimberley, Australia.
He also produced a small sculpture of a dog, to illustrate how easy it is to create simple-but-fun ornaments for the home.
“Most of the door frames and window-sills of this house are now covered in a menagerie of these kinds of things,” he said. “As they fall, we make new ones, they get replaced.”
Every two weeks, a different artist will choose a topic that the community will respond to in terms of what the organizers hope will be a nationwide exhibition, which ends on April 30.
Sonia Boyce, who is representing Britain at next year’s prestigious Venice Biennale, will follow Sir Antony with a theme of portraiture. Other artists taking part include the Turner Prize-winners Anish Kapoor and Jeremy Deller, as well as the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who currently lives in Cambridge.
The idea for the project came from Firstsite, a visual arts organization in Colchester, Essex, celebrating its tenth anniversary.
The directors of many UK museums have suggested paintings and drawings that may inspire people as they prepare to paint, paint, carve or create their own work.
Rebecca Salter, President of the Royal Academy chose the maninquin of Yinka Shonibare’s Cheeky Little Astronomer (2013). While Sir John Leighton in National Galleries Scotland chose The Progress of a Soul: The Victory (1902) by Phoebe Anna Traquair.
If The Great Big Art Exhibition takes off as the organisers hope it will be both a blessing a curse.
A unifying celebration of national creativity would be a wonderful thing at a difficult time, but someone, somewhere will have to document the whole project and store for posterity what could be the most revealing expression of the British character during the 2020s pandemic.