Art Term

British black arts movement

The British black arts movement was a radical political art movement founded in 1982 inspired by anti-racist discourse and feminist critique, which sought to highlight issues of race and gender and the politics of representation

Black Audio Film Collective, still from Handsworth Songs, 1986

Black Audio Film Collective, still from Handsworth Songs, 1986

The movement was founded around the time of the First National Black Art Convention organised by the Blk Art Group and held at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. Their work was both inspired and promoted by the cultural theorist Stuart Hall, who was one of the main proponents of reception theory, particularly in relation to race and the media. The group were highly influential, instrumental in de-imperialising the institutional mind and in changing the nature and perception of British culture.

A key moment in the British black arts movement was the exhibition The Other Story staged at the Hayward Gallery in 1989 and curated by Rasheed Araeen. Featuring Modern artists of African, Caribbean and Asian ancestry, the show revealed how these artists had been marginalised in the West through discrimination.

Artists and curators associated with the movement include Rasheed Araeen, David A. Bailey, Black Audio Film Collective, Sonia Boyce, Eddie Chambers, Shakka Dedi, Denzil Forrester, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Remi Kapo, Eugene Palmer, Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Mark Sealy, Marlene Smith and Maud Sulter.

  • The Blk Art Group

    Formed in Wolverhampton, England, in 1979, The Blk Art Group was an association of young black artists who, inspired by the black arts movement, raised questions about what black art was, its identity and what it could become in the future


  • The Other Story and the Past Imperfect

    Jean Fisher

    The Other Story, 1989, the first retrospective exhibition of British African, Caribbean and Asian modernism, was received with derision and acclaim in equal measure. The paper discusses the roots of the controversy in Britain’s imperialist attitudes to race, nationalism and internationalism, the exhibition’s contribution to the erosion of ethnic barriers in the art establishment and its role in opening up a cosmopolitan perspective on British diasporan art.