Visual Art: Interview Andrea Rose - No, Really - the British Council Is Just So Cool ; It Took Damien Hirst to the World. Next Up - Brit Fashion. Helen Hague Meets Visual Arts Director Andrea Rose
Hague, Helen, The Independent (London, England)
Gaze at the incongruous elegance of a Shelley Fox dress incorporating burnt Elastoplast. Move on to Murray Watson's unsettlingly fetishistic black knee-to-ankle neon-green zip boots. Confront B Earley's hooded cowl with eye-holes made from light absorbing recycled soda bottles, emblazoned with a huge white-ish doily print - afternoon tea meets stalking menace. These exhibits are not on display in a happening Hoxton gallery as you might expect, but are the unlikely contents of a show mounted by the British Council (touring to Helsinki, Moscow and Prague next year) at the Crafts Council's gallery in north London.
"Fabric of Fashion", an exhibition exploring the impact of textiles on fashion, is a rare chance to see a British Council display in Britain. Stop someone aside from the arts cognoscenti in the street and ask how they think the Council promotes British culture abroad, and they are more likely to talk about morris dancing in Kenya or madrigals in Bangkok than touring work by Damien Hirst or Sarah Lucas.
They would be wrong. Hirst's cow and a half was probably the only British beef to cross the Channel legitimately while the beef ban was on (it was packaged up by the British Council to go on show at the Jeu de Paume in Paris). And it was sending work by Hirst to the Istanbul Biennale eight years ago. Sarah Lucas's Tits in Space wallpaper - repeat images of unsmoked cigarettes wound round two cricket balls - has just been put up in the reception area of the British Council's visual arts department in Portland Place. We are certainly not talking fusty notions of heritage Britain.
The Council organises 60 exhibitions of art and design a year - from big hitters such as Henry Moore in China to smaller international touring shows which can draw on its 7,000-piece collection. And no, it's not open to the public because its remit is to show abroad.
At the moment, British handbags made from used tea-bags and British chairs moulded from old plastic bottles and yoghurt pots are touring Australia in "Reclaimed". Artist Susan Hiller represents Britain at the Havana Bienal, and "Black Box Recorder", a film and video exhibition, is in Zagreb. A "rapid response" exhibition is now planned for display in Serbia.
The person behind these shows is Andrea Rose, a woman with a Bridget Riley on her office wall and an unwavering passion for promoting contemporary British art, design and architecture outside the UK. She has directed the visual arts department for the past six years, written books on the Pre-Raphaelites and wields enormous influence in how British culture is presented abroad. She is also well-known and respected in the British art scene.
"The point of the visual arts department is about just getting people to see things," she says. "What we do is about knowledge - to have that conversation and to open people's eyes and minds. It is definitely not flag-waving or saying Britain is best. But what happens here has a degree of originality, innovation and invention that deserves a wide audience." Indeed, few would contest her assertion that British art is now "one of the most hotly desired creative products abroad".
The visual arts department has a pounds 2m budget funded from the pounds 136m grant the British Council - now a charity - …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Visual Art: Interview Andrea Rose - No, Really - the British Council Is Just So Cool ; It Took Damien Hirst to the World. Next Up - Brit Fashion. Helen Hague Meets Visual Arts Director Andrea Rose. Contributors: Hague, Helen - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 17, 2000. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.