Catalogue entry

P77189 Africa Footprints 1986

Continuous tone lithograph 1006 × 715 (39 5/8 × 28 1/8) on Somerset Satin paper, same size; printed by Collotype Fine Art, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire and published by Victoria Miro Gallery in an edition of 75 with approximately 75 artist's proofs
Inscribed ‘Richard Long’ and ‘50/75’ b.r.
Purchased from Victoria Miro Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1987

P77189 depicts Long's footprints within the shape that resembles that of the African continent. The image is brown and is based on a unique mud work entitled ‘Africa Footprints’ (repr. New Art New World, exh. cat., Jack Barclay Ltd 1986, p.45 in col.) made for a contemporary art exhibition and auction sale in aid of African famine victims. The project, called ‘New Art New World’, was organised by three undergraduate students at Edinburgh University, Charles Booth-Clibborn, Jay Jopling and Greville Worthington.

In conversation with the compiler on 29 September 1990, Long said that the theme of the project inspired the image, which was atypical of his work in being asymmetrical. He agreed with the compiler that the footprint drew attention to one of the chief means of transportation in Africa and that mud, his choice of material for the work on which P77189 was based, was an important material in African life. Long made the original work with River Avon mud from near his home in Bristol. He drew a light outline of the shape of the African continent before filling in the area outlined. He said he no longer remembered how the work progressed and by what steps he filled in the outline, adding that there was a point ‘where you can have too much information’.

In conversation with the compiler on 29 January 1991, Booth-Clibborn said there were three original mud works, from which one was selected by the artist to donate to the project. Another unique work, ‘Mud Hand Africa Map’, 1985, was made with handprints rather than footprints (repr. Post War and Contemporary Art, sale cat., Sotheby's, 26 March 1992, lot 91).

Richard Long was one of several artists who donated work for the exhibition and auction sale. Booth-Clibborn said that the project began as a spontaneous gesture in response to the television coverage of the Ethiopian famine during the mid-1980s. The initiative coincided with the Band Aid charity crusade launched by the rock musician Bob Geldof. Booth-Clibborn recalled the exhilarating mood that accompanied the group's efforts to organise an exhibition and charity auction. The Save the Children Fund charity was approached after the group had agreed on the nature of their project. In their joint foreword to the exhibition and sale catalogue (Jack Barclay Ltd exh. cat., 1986, [p.6]), the organisers wrote that the project was ‘conceived by the three of us in Edinburgh during the autumn of 1984’. They continued:

It was a period which struck us, like many others, as a time when pretty direct action was required to help those in need in East Africa. As we were admirers and followers of the rich reserve of the international contemporary art scene we decided to attempt to exploit it to the advantage of those whose reserves were depleted and whose lands, for the time being, held few riches. Our aim was simple: to raise money, and in pursuit of it we took an international perspective and asked artists from both sides of the Atlantic to contribute works which we considered would raise the highest prices at auction. To unify this collection, we invited the contributors to consider the the theme of ‘New Beginnings’ as a guideline, in the belief that the optimism and hope, without which long-term change is impossible, be reflected in the works.

The organisers invited artists whom they particularly admired to contribute works. Some artists, including Long, Richard Deacon, Joe Tilson, Ken Currie, Peter Bömmels, Jean Michel Basquiat and Adrian Wiszniewski, made works specifically for the project, while the majority donated existing pieces. In conversation Booth-Clibborn recalled that most of the artists they approached were enthusiastic about the project. Long said that he never saw any of the other works made by other artists and that there had been no collaboration between artists. He said that the idea on which P77189 is based was very much ‘a specific one-off job’ and that it was ‘a particular work for that particular charity’.

Booth-Clibborn recalled that he and his fellow organisers had hoped to publish an editioned portfolio containing works by all the artists involved, but had soon realised that this was not possible. Towards the end of the preparations for the exhibition and auction, and as a means of making a relatively inexpensive work more widely available, Long agreed to make an editioned print from his mud work as a money-making venture to raise more funds for the charity. He signed the edition, but was not involved in the printing process, and did not determine the size of the edition.

The ‘New Art New World’ exhibition was mounted in the car showroom of Jack Barclay Ltd, Berkeley Square, London, for the period 14–19 April 1986. ‘Africa Footprints’ prints were offered for sale at £100 each and around a dozen prints sold during the exhibition. It was followed by an auction at Christie's, London, on 22 April 1986, with simultaneous transmission to Christie's New York. The mud work on which P77189 is based was lot 29 and sold for £2,000. Its present ownership is unknown.

The organisers originally planned to make the prints with real mud using a silkscreen, and Long was enthusiastic about this idea. Booth-Clibborn approached Simon Cutts of the Coracle Press who, in subsequent discussions, suggested that the best way of making the edition would be to use a collotype technique. In conversation on 29 May 1991; Cutts said that the print was in fact a continuous tone lithograph, not a collotype. He recalled discussing the matter with Long and recommending that, given the mud medium, the quality of reproduction would be improved by making it a lithograph. In a conversation with the compiler on 16 October 1992, the artist was unable to recall this discussion. However, it is also the view of a Tate Gallery conservator that P77189 is a continuous tone lithograph rather than a collotype.

The edition was split between the Edinburgh organisers, who sold some prints during the exhibition at Jack Barclay's Showroom, and the Coracle Press, which marketed the remainder of the edition. In conversation Booth-Clibborn said that the quality of the printing was uneven and that the original intention had been to make about fifty proofs in addition to the edition of seventy-five. In conversation Cutts said he produced approximately seventy-five, although many of these were of poor quality or damaged proofs. The compiler has been unable to ascertain the exact number of proofs made.

The paper size of the original mud work is 1160 × 855 mm, around 1/7th larger than the print. Booth-Clibborn explained that the reduction in the dimensions of the print was necessary because the Coracle Press wished to use paper they had in stock, which was too small to accomodate the full size of Long's mud work. In conversation with the compiler, however, Cutts said Somerset Satin paper had been chosen because it offered the best results in terms of the quality of the image. This determined, he said, the size and type of paper used for the edition, adding that a larger paper size would not have fitted into the printing press. A number of mud spatterings around the edges of the mud work are not present in the print, which, as a result of the printing process has less clarity than the original mud work.

The artist has approved this entry.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996