This summer, Somerset House celebrates the impact of 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, with a landmark exhibition showcasing art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion. It is the first time that this distinguished group of approximately 100 artists are represented together, with their work articulating and addressing the Black experience and sensibility, from the post-war era to the present day.
Historic artworks and new commissions sit alongside items from personal archives, much of which has never been seen by the public before. Through these original photographs, letters, films and audio clips, the exhibition connects the creative, the personal and the political, reflecting how artists have responded to the issues of our times.
Curated by acclaimed artist Zak Ove, Get Up, Stand Up Now begins with the work of his father, Trinidadian Horace Ove, credited as the creator of the first feature film by a Black British director, and his pioneering peers who were part of what is now known as the Windrush generation, such as Armet Francis, Charlie Phillips and Vanley Burke. During the 1960s and 1970s, they developed a new creative model for modern multicultural Britain, paving the way for the next generation of artists, such as John Akomfrah, Sonia Boyce and Steve McQueen, who all contribute to the exhibition.
Get Up, Stand Up Now extends to works from today’s brilliant young Britain-based talent too, including photographer Ronan McKenzie, fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi and musician Gaika, who interrogate identity in innovative ways. Carrying forward the line of enquiry and internationalist ambition established by Horace Ove and his dynamic creative circle, a number of renowned contemporary diasporic artists also participate in the exhibition, including David Hammons, Carrie Mae Weems and Sanford Biggers.
Curator Zak Ove has invited each artist to exhibit on account of their significant contribution to shaping our cultural landscape. All the artists’ trailblazing work transforms their local experiences into a global, universal language, which challenges the systems of power and representation and continues to change the consciousness of society today.