Arts Council England commits new investment for Arnolfini as part of new UWE Bristol partnership

Media Relations Team, 04 September 2019

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Summertime exterior of the Arnolfini on Bristol's harbourside.

Arnolfini, Bristol's international centre for contemporary art, and Arts Council England (ACE) today (4 September) announce a major new investment of £1.8 million until 2022, that secures the sustainable future of the gallery presenting a bold new programme over the next three years.

Arnolfini relaunches as an independent charity that is part of UWE Bristol in a partnership that was announced in January 2019. Its governance is established to ensure that Arnolfini continues to thrive in its new structure with strong support from the University. UWE Bristol also owns Bush House, the distinctive waterfront building Arnolfini has inhabited since 1975, and the organisations will work closely together to ensure mutual benefit to artists, audiences, academics and students. Arnolfini continues to receive ongoing funding from the Ashley Clinton Barker-Mills Trust, which exists to support its work.

The decision by ACE is reflective of the vital importance of Arnolfini to contemporary and visual arts in Bristol, working with and supporting local artists and communities while also bringing the best in international artists to work and exhibit in the city. Securing the long-term future of Arnolfini as a vital centre for contemporary art, artists and a broad audience was identified as a key recommendation of the Bristol Visual Arts Review, commissioned by ACE and written by James Lingwood and Godfrey Worsdale.

Interim Director Gary Topp, with Head of Programme Kieran Swann, will deliver its wide-ranging programme of exceptional artistic encounters and experiences of internationally significant art through commissioning, co-productions, partnerships and touring productions.

Arnolfini will announce its full 2020 programme in the coming months. This will include exhibitions and seasons across visual art, dance, performance, music, live and digital and feature the work of celebrated figures alongside emerging artists. Collaboration and partnership will be at the heart of Arnolfini's new open approach to cultural programming, working with a diverse range of organisations to create opportunities for audiences that would not otherwise exist in Bristol or the South West. This new model allows for takeovers, short and long term residencies and relationships, hosting work by collaborating institutions and working across multiple sites and with other partners in the city.

The gallery marks its relaunch with the opening on 13 September of Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance – Act 3, a major new exhibition enabled by existing interim ACE funding. It is a timely exhibition exploring the role that women have played in the history of resistance movements, as well as alternative forms of living from a gendered perspective. The exhibition opens in Bristol following critical acclaim for previous iterations at Nottingham Contemporary and De La Warr Pavilion.

For Arnolfini, new commissions, performances and programme will bring to the fore the unique stories in the history of resistance that are specific to Bristol, situating these within their international and historical contexts.

Arnolfini's Board of Trustees is chaired by Lhosa Daly, Assistant Director of Operations at The National Trust in Wales. Its deputy is Professor Jane Roscoe, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Art, Creative Industries and Education at UWE Bristol, and also includes Alison Comley, Joint Artistic Director, Theatre West; Michele Farmer, Director of The Prince's Trust; Rachael Fleetwood, Finance Director, UWE Bristol; Glen Maxwell-Heron, Director, Belmont Leisure.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

“We are delighted to have committed £1.8 million into Arnolfini, an important part of Bristol's cultural infrastructure. This is thanks to the hard work and expert leadership from Gary and Lhosa at Arnolfini and the commitment from UWE over the past eighteen months to affect fundamental change. This positive outcome directly responds to a key recommendation in the Bristol Visual Arts Review.

“We very much welcome this new period and look forward to seeing how the Arnolfini and UWE partnership develops over the next two and a half years to bring communities together in Bristol, make people proud of the city where they work and live, as well as adding to the economy by encouraging more visitors to the region to see work of international renown.”

Lhosa Daly, Chair of Trustees, says:

“At this time for celebration I would like to express my thanks to Art Council England for their support throughout this transition period and their faith in our exciting plans. Like me, they must have been impressed by our partnership with UWE Bristol and the hard work of our staff team led by Gary Topp. Special thanks to him and my fellow board members and now onwards together as we shape our new shared future.”

Gary Topp, Interim Director at Arnolfini, says:

“This is an important moment for Arnolfini as we build on its extraordinary history to create an organisation for the future. We will be working with many partners, artists and communities to create and share contemporary art that is relevant and powerful. We have created a new context in which to make an important contribution to the cultural life of Bristol and the region and it is a privilege to lead the organisation and work with a committed team to achieve this.”

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, says:

“Arnolfini provides a fantastic and iconic setting for UWE Bristol's Digital Arts, Design and performance programmes and we have already had many years of close collaboration with the organisation as an important part of our City Campus, so we are delighted to enter into this new partnership with Arnolfini, alongside Arts Council England.

“The partnership will ensure that Arnolfini continues to maintain and increase its vital position in the creative and cultural landscape of Bristol as well as nationally and internationally, and we look forward to working together on this new and exciting phase in its history.”

Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Finance, Governance, Property and Culture at Bristol City Council, says:

“Bristol City Council warmly welcomes this investment from Arts Council England into Arnolfini. Arnolfini has been a vital part of the cultural landscape in the city for decades, acting as a champion for contemporary art. Arnolfini is vital in representing the city's own unique artistic cultures, while also bringing the world's best artists to work in the city and the Council looks forward to working closely with Arnolfini in the future.”

Annabel Rees, Founder, Arnolfini, says:

“When we opened Arnolfini, in March 1961, we would never have believed it would still be here, almost sixty years later! We wanted Arnolfini to be a cultural pacemaker deeply linked to the heart of Bristol, with an eclectic programme to stimulate critical thinking. I'm so proud that Arnolfini is carrying on that tradition today.”

Thomas Sheppard, Ashley Clinton Barker-Mill Trust says:

“The ACBMT Endowment Fund has supported Arnolfini over many years and it continues to do so; the news that the Arts Council England has made a substantial new commitment to the Arnolfini is excellent news both for Bristol and Contemporary Art.”

Still I Rise - Act 3 runs from 14 September – 15 December 2019.

Act 1: 27 Oct 2018 – 27 Jan 2019, Nottingham Contemporary.

Act 2: 9 Feb – 2 Jun 2019, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea.

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