Categories ArtPosted on

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964 – 1979

This unique exhibition, opening at Tate Britain from 12th April to 29th August 2016, will show how conceptual art mirrored the thought-provoking and politically engaged nature of a tumultuous period of social and political upheaval, that started with Harold Wilson’s first Labour government, and ended with the election of Margaret Thatcher.

This unique exhibition, opening at Tate Britain from 12th April to 29th August 2016, will show how conceptual art mirrored the thought-provoking and politically engaged nature of a tumultuous period of social and political upheaval, that started with Harold Wilson’s first Labour government, and ended with the election of Margaret Thatcher. It will feature 70 works by 21 influential figures, revealing the key roles played by British art schools, such as Saint Martin’s, the Royal College and the Coventry School in the formation of a ground-breaking generation of artists; Sue Arrowsmith, Braco Dimitrijević, Barry Flanagan, Hamish Fulton, Margaret Harrison, Ed Herring, Susan Hiller, John Hilliard, John Latham, Bob Law and David Tremlett, among others.

John Hilliard, Sixty Seconds of Light (detail)

John Hilliard
Sixty Seconds of Light (detail)
1970

Tate. Purchased 1973
© John Hilliard

These artists all shared the belief that they could make the world a better place. It was a time of protest, (the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Vietnam war, racial discrimination, miners’ strikes etc.,) but also of hope: capital punishment was abolished, sex between men decriminalised, voting age reduced from 21 to 18, theatre censorship disappeared, housing and town planning improved, social spending increased and, for the first time in British history, more money was allocated to education than to defence. Some labelled it the “permissive society” where youngsters gained more prominence, making it also an iconic period for fashion and music, challenging traditions with the hippy movement, Mary Quant’s mini-skirts or the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen.

Barry Flanagan, ringn 66

Barry Flanagan
ringn ‘66

1966
Tate. Purchased 2010
© The Estate of Barry Flanagan, courtesy Plubronze Ltd.

Conceptual artists extended the territory in which art functioned. They completely rejected standard ideas of art and took their material and content from the real world, like Bruce McLean’s sculptures made from rubbish. This display will demonstrate how they changed the way we think about art, revealing its implications for the art of today.

Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges)

Roelof Louw Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges) 1967 Tate. Presented by Tate Patrons 2013 Image courtesy Aspen Art Museum, 2015 © Roelof Louw

Seminal works that show how conceptualism took art beyond its traditional boundaries and questioned how it was defined, will include Michael Craig-Martin’s An Oak Tree 1973 – a glass of water on a glass shelf, alongside a text suggesting possible meanings of the work – and Roelof Louw’s Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges) 1967 – a pile of fruit from which visitors are invited to take a piece.

Margaret Harrison, Homeworkers

Margaret Harrison
Homeworkers
1977
Tate. Purchased 2011
© Margaret F. Harrison

Other works will show how artists questioned and addressed issues of society, politics and identity, such as Victor Burgin’s critique of modern consumerism, Possession 1976, Mary Kelly’s examination of the mother-child relationship in her Post-Partum Document 1974-8, and Conrad Atkinsons’s Northern Ireland 1968 – May Day 1975 1975-6, which used photography and text to represent different points of view in the Troubles. This exhibition will also provide a one and only chance to see over 250 archival objects rarely on public display.

Keith Arnatt, Self-Burial

John Hilliard
Sixty Seconds of Light (detail)
1970

Tate. Purchased 1973
© John Hilliard

12 April –29 August 2016
Tate Britain, Level 2 Galleries
Open daily from 10.00 – 18.00
For further information call +44 (0)20 7887 8888
visit tate.org.uk
follow @Tate #ConceptualArtGB.

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