The Harris announced as a partner for Imperial War Museums’ £2.5m art commissioning programme

Posted on - 17th May, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Flag Market, History, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
The Harris
The Harris

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund is set to support the Harris in a new art commission.

Nine new art commissions that tackle subjects will each receive £20,000 from Imperial War Museums’ art commissioning programme.

The Harris will explore the relationship between Preston and Egypt relating to the unique Egyptian Balcony created by artist John Somerscales in 1908.

The Harris will commission an artist of Egyptian heritage to work with local communities to explore these shared histories of conflict and the connections that exist between the two locations creating a new artwork that will go on display in 2024 and become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

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Councillor Peter Kelly, Cabinet member for Arts and Culture at Preston City Council, said: “We are proud to be a part of the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, which supports ambitious and inspiring artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict.

“It is an honour to receive £20,000 from Imperial War Museums’ art commissioning programme for our project where identifying an artist of Egyptian heritage in collaboration with community partners, will be key to realising the project.

“We are excited to join the existing cohort of partners and look forward to seeing the diverse range of projects that will come to fruition through this programme.”

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Artist John Somerscales created one of the most unique features of the Harris building, the Egyptian Balcony. A series of painted murals inspired by a research trip to Egypt, which includes key historical sites and interpretations of ancient tomb paintings – the organisation’s first art commission and arguably its most significant to date.

The relationship between Preston and Egypt has been little explored, despite representations of this country being at the very heart of the building.

A new display in 2024 will consider why there are Egyptian artefacts in the collection, the motivations behind the creation of the Egyptian Balcony, and Egypt as a crucial supplier of cotton to Lancashire’s textile mills. It will the British Empire, its interests in Egypt and Britain’s occupation of Egypt until the 1950s.

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Rebecca Newell, Head of Art for Imperial War Museums, said: “The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy fund builds on Imperial War Museums’ rich and longstanding history of commissioning art.

“One year into this programme, we are delighted by the diversity of exceptional arts experiences that have been created and shared with audiences.

“We look forward to expanding this work with artists, organisations and communities across the UK, continuing to highlight stories of conflict in engaging and creative ways.”

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The Harris joins a diverse existing cohort of partners from across the UK, including several War and Conflict Subject Specialist Network members and five major partners that have been appointed by IWM as co-commissioners, each to receive £250,000.

Working with five world-leading artists including Turner Prize nominees, these five commissions explore themes ranging from care work in conflict to the current refugee crisis.

Legacy Fund commissions will go on public display across the UK between 2023 and 2025.

When the Harris re-opens in 2024, the proposed commission will be displayed on the second-floor balcony and use the Harris’ unique collections to draw-out stories relevant to young people, local people and family audiences today. Community partners will bring an intergenerational focus, and a diversity of viewpoints to both the commission, and its interpretation.

More information can be found about the Harris Your Place project on the Harris website.

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