Seven artists take on the cultural history of the United Kingdom. In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, History Is Now offers a radical new way of thinking about how we got to where we are today.
John Akomfrah, Simon Fujiwara, Roger Hiorns, Hannah Starkey, Richard Wentworth and Jane and Louise Wilson have each been invited to curate sections of the exhibition, looking at particular periods of cultural history.
Their varied and highly original curatorial ‘takes’ on Britain provide fresh perspectives and illuminate key moments in the nation’s journey from the post-war period to the present day.
The artists pursue inventive ways of exploring our recent history, spanning ideas and topics as varied as the Cold War, post-Thatcherite society, protest movements, feminism, BSE, and celebrity culture. They present over 250 objects from both public and private art collections as well as everyday artefacts including maps, costumes, newspapers, films, and personal diaries, together with scientific and military displays.
While each section of the exhibition is distinct in both focus and style, taken together, History Is Now provokes reflection and debate on the events, people, and objects that have shaped the nation in recent decades, so informing our future decisions and directions.
Artworks to be shown will include those by: Keith Arnatt, Tony Cragg, Gilbert and George, Richard Hamilton, Barbara Hepworth, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Ryan Gander, Henry Moore, Hayley Newman, Ben Nicholson, Martin Parr, Toby Patterson, Eduardo Paolozzi, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Penny Slinger and Christine Vogue among many others.
History Is Now is co-curated by Dr Cliff Lauson, Hayward Gallery Curator.
A full-colour catalogue is published in conjunction with the exhibition, illustrating the artists’ sections and including an essay by Cliff Lauson and newly commissioned texts by six diverse writers: Sheila Dillon, Adrian Forty, Daniel Fujiwara, Charlotte Higgins, Jackie Kay, and David Mellor.
Tours of History Is Now take place on Thursdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 1pm. They are free with a same-day exhibition ticket.
The exhibition is part of the festival Changing Britain 1945 – 2015 (30 January – 9 May).
This festival will interrogate the last 70 years of British history, focussing on society, culture and politics, inspired by historian David Kynaston’s acclaimed books that are part of a series Tales of a New Jerusalem on the social history of England from the end of World War Two. The festival will ask if we still believe in the values of the 1951 nationwide Festival of Britain created to give Britons a feeling of recovery and progress following the Second World War and explore themes including equality, fairness and social justice since then. Changing Britain 1945-2015 begins with a series of BBC Concert Orchestra concerts accompanied by a supporting programme on 30 January, 7 February and 22 March, and a major exhibition, History is Now: Seven Artists Take On Britain in the Hayward Gallery from 10 February to 26 April. More details about the exhibition are available in the visual arts section of this document. The festival will build up to three concentrated festival weekends of talks and debates (18 – 19 April, 25 – 26 April and 2 – 4 May) ahead of the General Election on 7 May. Following the election, on 9 May, there will be a day devoted to artists and audiences, who will give a message to the new government about the importance of creativity, including the London Sinfonietta, who will perform two sets of newly commissioned works co-curated by Matthew Herbert and the Royal Philharmonic Society.