Tate Britain Room 8
30 April – 21 October 2007
A special exhibition entitled 1807: Blake, Slavery and the Radical Mind will open on 30 April to mark the bicentenary of the passing of the 1807 Parliamentary Act which abolished the British Slave Trade. Incorporating historical documents and works of art, and innovative interpretation and commentary, the exhibition will focus on William Blake (1757–1827) and the circle of liberal writers and artists associated with the radical London publisher Joseph Johnson (1738-1809), many of whose publications supported the emergence of socially and politically progressive ideas and causes. In Blake’s prints and poetry, which have inspired generations of artists, writers and religious and political dissenters, we can find some powerful anti-slavery sentiments. This display will evoke the atmosphere of debate to which Blake and many others contributed and which helped shape the ideas that underpinned the introduction of the Act.
The display will include Blake’s The Little Black Boy from the Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) and two important engravings by Blake which illustrate army officer John Gabriel Stedman’s first hand account of life on the slave plantations, his Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796). Blake’s illustrations to this book, including The Execution of Breaking on the Rack, are among the most powerful and shocking anti-slavery images. The exhibition will also feature other pieces by Blake such as the tempera, The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan of about 1805-9, and works by Blake’s contemporaries, such as caricatures by James Gillray and two little-known anti-slavery prints after paintings by George Morland. This exhibition will include important historical publications loaned by the British Library and the BritishMuseum and other collections. There will be books by contemporary radical thinkers of the day such as John Howard the prison reformer, the poet William Cowper and feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft. The well-known portrait of Wollstonecraft by John Opie of 1790-1 will be on display.
Visitors will be invited to explore the historical and intellectual context for the abolition movement and to consider issues of race, identity and freedom of speech. The books, illustrations, prints and paintings from the period will establish the wider philosophical and political setting for abolition.
The exhibition has been curated by writer and broadcaster, Mike Phillips and Tate Curators, Robin Hamlyn and Martin Myrone.
There will be a series of related events, workshops and displays across Tate over this year.
Tate Collection: Tracks of Slavery
From April until October 2007
There will be a series of changing displays from the British Collection at Tate. The works to be featured include Joseph Wright of Derby’s Thomas Staniforth of Darnall 1769 and Joshua Reynolds portraits of recently married Frances and Susannah Beckford 1756. Thomas Staniforth was a slave trader and Francis Beckford was involved in salve plantations and was the son of Peter Beckford, the wealthiest and most politically powerful plantation owner in Jamaica. The display will reveal hidden connections between these and other works in the Collection and the issues raised by 1807.
21 April – 28 August 2007
Ellen Gallagher (born 1965) is a leading contemporary painter whose work touches on the politics of representation. Using a variety of media, her richly layered works feature materials such as plasticine, paint, gold leaf and ink. The exhibition at Tate Liverpool will include works from the series of Watery Ecstatic drawings (2001 – ongoing) and new works that explore related themes.
October 2007 to April 2008
Level 3 display
A display on Level 3 will open at Tate Modern in October which will include a selection of new acquisitions which are united by their treatment of issues arising from slavery and other forms of oppression. The display will include works in which notions of freedom and suppression are central themes. A key work in this display will be Grub for Sharks: A Concession to the Negro Populace 2004 by American artist Kara Walker, which is a critique of the camouflaging of the slave trade and subsequent histories.
Tate St Ives
1807: The Coast, Trade and Cornish Culture
There will be a discussion led by writer and broadcaster Mike Phillips looking at the link between Cornish maritime traditions, the triangular slave trade and settlement in the Caribbean, giving an unfamiliar view of the visual history of the St Ives School.