Category Archives: Contemporary Art


Today’s post is from Natalie Heidaripour, Project Officer (Peace and Reconciliation Gallery).

Willie Doherty. Segura, 2010.

Willie Doherty. Segura, 2010. Photograph by Ilya Rabinovich.

This was my first experience of Manifesta, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, which this year was held in the Spanish cities of Murcia and Cartagena. The artworks were amazing. They were displayed across the cities in venues including a recently closed prison, an old post office and former artillery barracks. You can view photos from Manifesta 8 on Flickr.

There were many weird and wonderful works but the ones that have stuck with me are: Neil Beloude’s film Kempinski which includes the line ‘I am the only man who lives with hundreds of oxen…my wife the cow has given birth to two cows and the baptism is for tomorrow. The orchestra will come… the party will be beautiful,” Willie Doherty’s mesmerising and beautiful film Segura which was shot over 24 hours in Murcia and Celine Condorelli’s moving work, There is Nothing Left, exploring memory and loss and the movement of communities. Although sometimes bewildering (to me) it was a really interesting experience. I went with a group of colleagues from the West Midlands including staff from Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Ikon, The New Art Gallery, Walsall and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, who were much more familiar with the artists, works and art biennials in general. It was really useful to discuss both the works and the success or otherwise of Manifesta but also ways we can work together.

Finally, check out Simon Fujiwara’s Phallusies which I think we should definitely consider for the Egypt exhibition!

Simon Fujiwara. Phallusies, 2010. Photograph by Ilya Rabinovich.

Manifesta runs from 09/10/10 – 09/01/11


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Street Art Season: A personal pictorial review

Over the last few of months the gallery has immersed itself into the world of street art and graffiti and I’ve attempted to document some of what been going on through the lens of my trusted camera. What follows is my very own pictorial review of my involvement in the project.

Street Art Saturday

We decided to launch the street season with a day devoted to letting street artists do what they do best: Artists involved on the day included: Pahnl, As One, Newso, Agent, Ame72 and Id-iom.


The street art season’s main focus was the three exhibitions that we organised. The pictures below are taken from Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V&A, Fresh Paint and Mohammed Ali’s Breaking down the Wall.

Street Art Giveaway

One particular part of Street Art Season which I’ve really enjoyed being part of is our weekly free street art. Each week we leave pictorial clues on Twitter and Facebook and whoever grabs the artwork first gets to keep it. Below are just a couple of my favourite spots.

Dominic Bubb, Exhibitions Officer

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Exclusive Interview with one of our Street Artists

Here, Pahnl, one of the artists involved in our Street Art exhibition, talks to Dom about his artwork and the things that inspire him.  You can see his animation at the Herbert until January 16th.

Name: Pahnl

Where you lay your hat: Oxford

Occupation: Artist / Graphic Designer

How long have you been involved in the Street Art Scene? What made you pick up that first can of spray paint? I first started using stencils in 2003 and I started painting in the street three years after that. A mate got me interested in it and, although he stopped soon after, my passion for street art has only continued to grow since then.

How would you describe your artwork and inspires you?

My art is an amalgamation of signage-styled figures, comics and graphic design but on a small scale. I use little characters and animals to play with spaces I find in the street, hopefully making someone smile in the process. As a result, inspiration for street work comes from the street itself and it’s rare that I’ll paint a spot that I’ve not seen beforehand because I like to tailor my art.

How did you come to work with the Herbert?

One of The Herbert’s exhibition officers, Dominic Bubb, initially contacted me with regards to a personal commission and I happened to mention an animation I was working on. At that point I didn’t know Dom worked at The Herbert, it was just a by the by sentence but it was the beginning of a fantastic experience.

How did the idea for the animation develop?

The images of a dog running around the city at night simply came to me  out of nowhere as I listened to the track I used for the animation. I must’ve played the track over and over again thirty times because with every repeat, more scenes and ideas came to mind. The use of animation isn’t native to street artists but with the likes of Blu and Lichtfaktor pushing the envelope, I understood it’s potential.

After that, it was a matter of working out how I could actually portray all this idea; I considered photomontage or rotoscoping but I’ve always had a fascination with how light can be used and I came up with the idea for exposing the image of a dog into the photograph. The answer was a stop motion, long exposure animation using stencils with light. Thankfully I’m adept with a camera and I had experience with storyboarding narrative via my love of comics.

The animation was basically a combination of everything I love.

Is it true it took you over 300 hours to produce?

Give or take a day away from that total, yes. I think the idea was conceived sometime in August 2009 and I gradually storyboarded (textually), scouted locations and slowly started designing each stencil. Then from July of this year, right up until 2am on the day of the show’s launch, the work I did was more substantial as I cut all the frames, shot the scenes and edited it together.

Dogs and cats seem to feature a lot in your work, are you a fan of our canine and feline friends?

I think it’d be a bit strange of me if I didn’t like cats and dogs considering the amount of time I spend staring at them in the process of making my own work, haha.

I’m drawn to them as motifs because I like to think of them as polar opposites and I like to play them off with each other. There’s a tension between those two animals and they’re very different in nature. Dogs are messy, happy and crude, whereas cats are devious, subdued and sly creatures.

What’s next for you?

Whilst I was working on the animation, I told myself I didn’t want to touch animation for a long, long time afterwards but now it’s complete, I’m tempted to return to it sooner, rather than later. Despite the fact I spent so much time thinking, designing, cutting, photographing and editing every part of the animation, there’s something fascinating about seeing an idea come alive.

Other than that, I’m interested in dipping my toe into vinyl toy design but that will be a slow process of learning…and mistakes but I’m eager to explore new mediums for the characters and world I’ve created. I also want to start painting larger and more complex works, both on and off the street.

Where can people see more of your artwork?

There’s a lot of stuff around Oxford, albeit small, and then there’s stuff all around the country but my website,, is probably worth a look in.

Interview by Dominic Bubb, Exhibitions Officer

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Experiment S

Crowds Gather for Beginining of the Launch

Okay,  so I said I would get back before the launch and I didn’t, and even though we had a barn storming 2,000 people turn up to our Street Art Launch and get down to Jason Fury’s Hip Hop vibes,  I still didn’t make it back here to share the effect of the planning we had noted in advance.

If you didn’t make the launch and are a little curious you can watch a record of the night here through Mohammed Ali’s eyes.

It appears that stage 1 of Experiment S is complete. We planned and targeted new incoming students through print, email, press and bribery (sweets) and provided a quality product. The results have been quite stunning.

We now have a regular flow of students within the building interacting with our cafe, collections and of course the three Street Art Exhibitions that kind of hit the nail on the head with content.

Stage two of this new direction in audience development is to get a moderate repeat performance for the two events we have coming up for Mohammed Ali – Can Graffiti Art Really Change the World talk with luminary Henry Chalfant and Breaking Down the Wall Live with spoken word and live art that should be a really nice vibe in the gallery.

Crowds Mob the V A Street Art Exhibition

The real challenge of course is sustaining student interest in our offer when Street Art moves out and something with less obvious connections moves in.

We will always be a family friendly venue and need to generate a dual focus – if done effectively, holiday periods where many students are absent would be flowing with families and when families with older children are at school and work our local student population would help us keep up those numbers.

If we look at the positives of what we experienced in our successful family audience focus it would lead us to an approach of total saturation of ‘student’ content,thinking, programming, offer, appeal, marketing, learning, interest, inclusion, media running through everything we do in order become really student friendly.

Let’s hope this can be pulled off by our amazingly talented teams across all departments…

… another time.

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Two weeks to go…

Napalm by Banksy

Time is ticking now…. as our Street Art Season launch looms within two weeks. I really can’t wait for the night. There’s some amazing stuff programmed – in particular the Live Street Art Battle between six artists. 

Our Herbert Matters invite (the campaign is launching on the same night as Street Art) has been distributed nearly four weeks in advance with some success.   

Regular VIP invites have also been sent out.   

Monday saw us take on the might of the incoming students at Coventry Uni Freshers week – we have taken the liberty of personally inviting all of them to the launch and will be offering some amazing popping gum, artwork and flying saucers to those sensible enough to sign up to our newsletters. This should be the maker or breaker of our launch event so it’s really important to sell the opportunity to the students and hopefully inform their attendance patterns for years to come.   

Design and art colleges around the region emailed and called.   

Posters, banners, pop ups and internal signage – all complete and in place.   

Rail ads running, magazine ads provided, listing sites updated …
should just be a case of making the most of the press opportunities between now and the launch.   

Other things still to complete … street art in the community – Anne-Marie Sandos and Dominic Bubb are working on two great projects bringing street art to two specific areas of the city – one hopefully being Coventry Train Station!   

… next time we talk should be just before the launch with fingers and toes crossed… more then…   


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Here to there


I’m Viv, a Contemporary Art Society Fellow working with the Herbert in developing their collections and programmes of contemporary art.

I was really keen to hear what you thought of the contemporary art show that is on at the present ‘From Here To There’? This show was curated by Rosie Addenbrooke at the Herbert from the vast collection of works held by the Arts Council. My particular favorite is the Gilbert & George work,  Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk (1972), which is a performance in which they slowly consume a bottle of Gordon’s Gin! Nice work if you can get it!

Be really good to hear what your thoughts are on The Herbert’s desire to increase contemporary art in the museum?

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From Egyptian Mummies to Tracey Emin

Working on the Herbert learning team means getting involved with a huge variety of projects, from running school sessions, to helping out our Families Learning Officer with activities and events, dressing up in costume for sessions like Molly the Maid or Keep Calm and Carry on, or working on the learning programmes for temporary exhibitions, there is always something fun and exciting to be involved with.

Lately on the learning team we have been travelling up and down the country doing research for the Secret Egypt exhibition that is coming up in 2011. This is going to be huge for the Herbert as an exhibition, but also for learning. We’ve already had teachers asking questions about it, so we’re expecting a big uptake with visits for the learning programme. Over the last couple of months we have been to Leicester, Sheffield, and Manchester to talk with other museums about what works and what doesn’t for Ancient Egyptian school sessions, and over the next few weeks we’ll be travelling to Birmingham, Bolton, London and Oxford to meet with some others. This is great for us as we’re getting a real insight into what is available from other museums and we’re meeting a lot of fellow museum educators. Over the next few months the learning team will be putting the Secret Egypt school’s programme together so keep looking out for updates of how that’s going! Read the rest of this entry

From Here to There…

As an exhibition officer my busiest times come when we are changing exhibitions. During a two or three week period we spend our whole day in one of the temporary galleries installing a new show. At the moment we’re taking down Fashion V Sport and installing From Here to There. This part of the job can be the most rewarding but also the most stressful. It is also extremely varied – over the last two weeks I’ve conditioned checked over 50 pairs of trainers, undressed numerous mannequins and packed a Paul Smith snowboard.

We begin installing From Here to There next week which really exciting as it’s the first time we’ve had an Arts Council collection exhibition in our new temporary galleries. The exhibition contains some of the best British based contemporary artists and explores themes of journeys, transitions and transformations. For example, Simon Patterson reinvents the London Underground map, renaming the tube stops so they become stars in a constellation. Richard Long and Hamish Fulton record their experiences of walks lasting hours, days and weeks through sculpture, photography and text.  Anya Gallaccio uses materials which are allowed to change over time – dozens of fresh cut gerbera flowers trapped behind glass will ooze and decay during the course of the exhibition.  Zarina Bhimji and Mona Hatoum explore issues about being exiled from their home countries as a result of political conflict.  Gilbert & George consume glass after glass of Gordon’s gin and get very, very drunk.

The exhibition has been curated by our senior exhibitions and events officer, Rosie Addenbrooke, so I’m eager to see how the artworks hang together in the gallery and decide which my favourite is. Anyway, I’ve got to go finish packing some crates so we can get From Here to There finished in time!

Dominic Bubb, Exhibitions and Events Officer

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