Keith Piper to create new work at Tate Britain in response to Rex Whistler mural
Tate today announced that celebrated British artist Keith Piper will create a new work to be shown alongside and in dialogue with the Rex Whistler mural at Tate Britain.
Keith Piper (b.1960) is renowned for his artistic responses to specific historical relationships and geographical sites. He rose to prominence in the 1980s as a founder member of the BLK Art Group and has gone on to stage solo exhibitions at museums and galleries across the UK, Europe and USA. His output as an artist ranges from painting and photography to video and digital media. Piper also works as a curator, researcher and academic and is an Associate Professor at Middlesex University, London.
Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, said: “Keith Piper’s work has always reflected his deep interest in important but overlooked histories, in particular a longstanding engagement with issues of race and the legacies of empire. Piper’s unique voice will bring a vital new perspective to the room, juxtaposing past and present in an ongoing conversation, as we often seek to do in Tate Britain’s programme today.”
Keith Piper said: “The ‘interwar’ years fascinate me. On the one hand, we have the creative rebellion and hedonistic excess of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and its 'Bright Young Things'. On the other, we have paranoia and polarisation across the country as seen in the anti-black riots of 1919 and the reactionary and racist ideologies that gripped sections of British society. Rex Whistler’s mural sits at the confluence of multiple influences from that period and becomes a fascinating window into a complex era."
The room containing Rex Whistler’s 1927 mural closed as a restaurant at the start of the pandemic. It was announced this year that a contemporary artist would be invited to create a new site-specific installation alongside the mural; that the room would reopen as a display space which critically engages with the mural’s history and content, including its racist imagery; and that Tate Eats would look to develop new dining offers in other spaces at Tate Britain in due course. This approach was developed through a series of discussions held in 2021, which invited voices from inside and outside Tate to explore possible next steps, including artists, art historians, cultural advisors, civic representatives and young creative practitioners. Tate is responsible for the mural and the gallery’s approach needs to create an appropriate context for it to be viewed, as well as allowing this context to evolve over time.
Piper’s new work is currently in production and will be unveiled in autumn 2023.