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Middlesbrough Collection, Why Are We Here? With Black Artists & Modernism


23 March 2019 - 29 March 2020

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art’s (MIMA)  year-long Middlesbrough Collection display reveals new narratives within the institute’s collection. Through a collaboration with research group Black Artists & Modernism, the collection is audited for all contributions by artists of African, Asian and Middle East and North Africa Region descent in the UK in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

In 1987, the Cleveland Gallery acquired a self-portrait by the artist Sonia Boyce (then 25 years old) She Ain’t Holdin’ Them Up, She’s Holdin’ On: Some English Rose (1986). This significant work has become a cornerstone of what is now the Middlesbrough Collection, held at MIMA. 32 years later, we follow up on the conversation with Boyce, now a leading figure in British contemporary art, via the project Black Artists & Modernism.

The display is structured around questions that are key for any collection, explored through the perspective of the artwork: Where am I? Why am I here? Who am I? What am I doing? What’s next?. The results of this research are unveiled as they are uncovered, making new material available to the institution and its publics. They also join an important national database which currently holds information on significant collections including: National Galleries Scotland, Arts Council Collection, British Museum and National Museums Wales.

The Middlesbrough Collection holds 2,500 works, a changing selection of which is on permanent display. It encompasses art and craft made by British and international artists from the mid-1800s to today. It features an eclectic mix of works, intertwining local and international artists, combining various media, styles, periods, and subjects.


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