Kiera Blakey's Top Exhibitions of 2017

By ​Kiera Blakey

Curator and writer Kiera Blakey chooses her top picks from 2017's shows.

'Old Lake' by Samara Scott

Entangled: Threads & Making

Turner Contemporary

Sat 28 Jan – Sun 7 May 2017

Entangled at Turner Contemporary. Photo: Stephen White.

Entangled: Threads & Making was a major exhibition of over 40 international female artists across generations and cultures at Turner Contemporary, Margate. A major survey from the early twentieth century to the present day, the artists challenging established notions of making, craft and design from sculpture through to textiles and installation. Samara Scott’s site specific commission for the public lifts in the museum was a collision of domestic materials, part mural part den, ranging from food colouring, toothpaste and yogurt (responsible for the acrid stench when I was there) applied atop a bright red carpet that filled the lift, enveloping viewers in a haptic, colourful delight.

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Sudden Rise at a Given Tune as part of BMW Tate Live: Ten Days Six Nights Night Two

Fred Moten and Wu Tsang

Tate Modern

Sat 25 March 2017

As part of the second night at Tate Modern’s BMW Tate Live Exhibition L.A.-based poet Fred Moten and filmmaker, artist and performer Wu Tsang presented Sudden Rise at a Given Tune, a sculptural performance that comprised a live reading and video projection. In the dark belly of the Tanks the performance merged voice, space and time, reading excerpts from the artists’ publication Who touched me? alongside documentation of the book’s accompanying performance, Gravitational Feel. A poignant, intimate and measured exchange, the performance explored the mystery of who we are and what we know, continuing their ongoing collaboration on the poetics of intimacy. 

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Laure Prouvost

Venice Biennale

Thu 11 May – Sun 26 November 2017

Laure Prouvost, GDM drinking fountain (for grandad to come back), 2017, two glass boobs and stone wall fountain, 80 x 72 x 47 cm. Courtesy the artist and Berengo Studio. Photo: Francesco Allegretto.

Come the Venice Biennale and the plethora of exhibitions taking over the city, Laure Prouvost’s mischievous sculpture as part of Glasstress was a welcome chink in the schedule. An exhibition of 40 international artists taking Venice’s ancient craft of glass-making as their point of departure. Prouvost’s sculpture come water feature took over the standard drinking fountains found all over the city by adding comically dismembered boobs, drinking water pouring from their nipples. A perfect marriage of the traditional and contemporary and the joy that can be found in invoking laughter, the anonymous breasts enjoyed a flirtatious vibrancy avoiding any sense of voyeurism.

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Dreamers Awake

White Cube Bermondsey

Wed 28 June – Sun 17 September 2017

Dreamers Awake, installation view 27 June – 17 September 2017. © the artist. Photo © White Cube (George Darrell).

Surrealism rejected the rational experience of the world and instead espoused the value of the unconscious and dreams, finding beauty in the unexpected and uncanny. Dreamers Awake was a sublime and elegant survey of over 50 women artists and their presence in Surrealism through sculpture, painting, collage, photography, and drawing from the 1930s to the present day. Iconic works by seminal artists including Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Hannah Wilkie and Francesca Woodman explored what it means to embody womanhood, all flesh, hair, leaking and bleeding, delighting in the female form instead of gazing upon it. Further works subvert objectification as in Claude Cahun’s iconic black and white self-portraits from the 1930s or in Linder’s collages that challenge cultural expectations of women and in particular the female body as commodity, created using images from pornographic, fashion and domestic magazines. A captivating and momentous celebration.

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Towards the Rainbow Tribe

Jade Montserrat

Alison Jacques

Thu 29 June – Sat 29 July 2017

Jade Montserrat, Bleach herself white by rubbing herself all over with lemons, 2017. Ink, verithik crayon, watercolour, pencil, pencil crayon, felt-tip pen and gouache on paper, 26 x 18 cm. © Jade Montserrat. Courtesy of Alison Jacques Gallery, London.

In a small room upstairs from the main space at commercial gallery Alison Jacques, Jade Montserrat’s exhibition Towards the Rainbow Tribe confronted viewers with a series of small yet defiant watercolour paintings. Hand painted text ‘bleach herself white by rubbing herself all over with lemons’ and close-up body parts of eyes or lips overlaid with captions like ‘born to suffer’ were fiercely arresting when at first met by Montserrat’s seemingly naïve and intimate style of painting. The works reference the artist’s research into the history of slavery and migration in the context of Black Atlantic cultural studies. Snapshots and colloquial moments reminiscent of selfies and our social media age call for gender parity and racial equality and together question our collective responsibility as global participants on a worldwide stage. 

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​Kiera Blakey is a curator and writer based in London.

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