British Museum and Huw Locke explore legacies of Empire

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The British Museum has embarked on a groundbreaking collaboration with the esteemed Guyanese-British artist, Hew Locke, for a significant new exhibition delving into how the Museum’s collection reflects the enduring legacies of British imperial power from centuries past to the present day. This innovative exhibition, co-curated by Locke, will showcase iconic objects from the Museum’s vast collection alongside specially commissioned new works by the artist himself.

Throughout his illustrious career, Locke has demonstrated a profound interest in objects and the narratives they harbor. His connection to the British Museum collection dates back to his formative years as a student in London, where he frequented the Museum of Mankind to draw inspiration from its ethnographic collections. This forthcoming exhibition marks a milestone as Locke’s first venture into artist-curated museum exhibitions, offering him a unique opportunity to delve deeply into a museum collection unlike ever before.

The rich history and holdings of the British Museum intertwine closely with the narrative of the British Empire. This exhibition is poised to dissect these intertwined histories while engaging with the contemporary debates swirling around cultural heritage. By focusing on Britain’s historical interactions with Africa, India, and the Caribbean—regions that significantly influenced Guyana, Locke’s place of upbringing—the exhibition will serve as a personal exploration by utilizing interventionist techniques to reframe historical objects within the collection.

Locke’s exploration aims to unravel the intricate ways in which museums are entangled in the legacies of Empire, embracing the complexities and ambiguities of these narratives. Rather than providing definitive answers, Locke seeks to provoke introspection and dialogue among visitors, leaving them with more questions than resolutions.

Expressing his sentiments on the project, Locke remarked, “I have been visiting the British Museum’s collections for 40 years, and this project has enabled me to engage with them in a much deeper way than ever before. I want to bring people beautiful objects with awkward histories… There is a fascinating story hidden in plain sight, here and in many other museums across the country.”

Isabel Seligman, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, expressed excitement about the collaboration with Locke, anticipating that his artistic vision and curiosity will offer visitors a fresh and thought-provoking perspective on the subject matter. Mark Jones, Interim Director of the British Museum, emphasized the exhibition’s significance in sparking constructive debate and conversation around the Museum’s collection history.

The British Museum’s commitment to collaboration and co-curation is exemplified through this partnership with Locke, following notable collaborations with artists such as Grayson Perry and Eduardo Paolozzi in the past. Locke and his studio curator, Indra Khanna, meticulously curated the exhibition over a two-year period, drawing inspiration from the Museum’s extensive collections and online database, Collection online, to align with Locke’s artistic themes and concerns.

As the exhibition takes shape, it promises to be a transformative experience, inviting visitors to reconsider the narratives embedded within museum objects, fostering dialogue, and offering a fresh lens through which to view historical artifacts.

For more information and to book a visit head to the British Museum