Arts Council Collection’s Acquisitions Coordinator, Grace Beaumont, reports from our recent Curators’ Day event around Artes Mundi 8 at National Museum Cardiff.
Artes Mundi is Latin for ‘arts of the world’, signifying the international focus of this Wales-based arts charity. Founded in 2002, it’s probably best known for its bi-annual exhibition and prize, which takes place in Cardiff. Its mission is to showcase the work of visual artists from across the globe who are concerned with contemporary social issues, as well as providing creative opportunities for local communities. We visited the eighth edition of the show, as part of an Arts Council Collection Curators’ Day in December last year. The shortlisted artists were chosen from 450+ nominees who span 86 countries, resulting in insights from Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Thailand and the US.
The five exhibiting artists not only reside across four continents, there is a satisfying range of media on display here. In the first gallery, Cairo-based Anna Boghiguian’s installation A Meteor fell from the sky (2018) features paintings, drawings and cut-out figures, which reference the steel industry and its political implications. Cold metallic characters between hot-pink walls, they resemble toiling factory workers, narrating histories of the industrial revolution, modernisation and capitalism.
Next is Bouchra Khalili, a French/Moroccan artist who premiers her video Twenty-Two Hours (2018). The work focuses on the radical playwright and poet Jean Genet’s relationship with the Black Panthers. On screen in near darkness, two African-American women recount Genet’s visit to the US in 1970 in solidarity with the Party. In near darkness we see them display images on mobile phones and small monitors, hushed and intense, considering the significance of this moment in history and Genet’s revolutionary legacy.