Antony Gormley to Curate London Exhibition of Works by Prisoner-Artists

Previous curators of the unconventional show include Grayson Perry, Jeremy Deller, and Sarah Lucas.

The artist Antony Gormley. Courtesy Koestler Trust.

The British artist Antony Gormley has been announced as the curator of the 10th Annual Koestler Trust Exhibition, which will feature artworks made by prisoner-artists. Titled “Inside,” the show is slated to open in September at London’s Southbank Center.

The Turner Prize-winning sculptor is in good company: curators of previous iterations include Grayson Perry, Jeremy Deller, and Sarah Lucas. The three artists worked with the prison arts charity to select and showcase pieces created by detainees of UK’s prisons, secure facilities such as hospitals and immigration removal centers, and by ex-offenders who have re-joined the community.

“I want to celebrate this great resource: the imaginations of the 85,000 prisoners currently in UK prisons and those in secure establishments,” Gormley said in a statement. “Art is a place in which you can do what you like; it need not be for or about anyone else but the artist. In the words of one prisoner, ‘in our minds we can always be free’. I want this work to say something to all of us outside about what it feels like to be a detainee, inside.”

Fiona Curran, director of arts at the Koestler Trust, told artnet News: “We approached Antony to curate the show because we knew that he was well loved and well known amongst our entrants. Those at prisons in the Northeast knew him well because of The Angel of the North and, equally, those in the Northwest knew him because of his figures on Crosby beach.”

Curran told artnet News that, with “Inside,” the Koestler Trust aims to engage new audiences in the arts by bringing prisoners out of an institutional setting and into the UK’s largest art center, and also to change public perception of former convicts.

“Everything that the Koestler Trust does is about getting work that’s been made in the criminal justice sector into the outside world,” she said.

The artworks on view this year have been selected from over 7,000 pieces of art, design, writing, and music entered to this year’s Koestler Awards.

“There are some pieces that are really emotive, others that are really quirky, fun, and quite cheerful, and there are a few pieces that employ quite unusual materials: one piece is made of matchsticks, and that’s a bit of a favorite for me,” Curran said of the works.

In the past, artists have engaged with the penal system in various ways: Ai Weiwei infamously served time himself, and notably staged an exhibition in Alcatraz. Meanwhile, last year Artangel staged a critically acclaimed exhibition in Reading Prison, bringing art into a place not traditionally associated with creativity.

Inside: Art by offenders, secure patients and detainees” will be on view at the Spirit Level of the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London, from September 21 – Wednesday November 15, 2017.

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