The starting point for developing this display was a new acquisition of three ‘heads’ by contemporary artist Thomas J Price in 2021. The heads were acquired in response to the surge in action within the museum sector following the Black Lives Matter Protests of 2021. Museums across the world chose to take this opportunity to publicly address the historic lack in representation and diversity in their collections. For us, Price’s work was an easy choice. Price is a Black British artist whose sculptures, depicting imagined Black people based on an amalgamation of people's behaviours and 'types' represented in the media, reference classical and neoclassical sculpture and subvert traditional sculptural hierarchies. Supported by the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the Contemporary Art Society and the Heslam Trust, we acquired these works in 2021.
The new display showcases portraits, sketches and busts from our extensive fine art collections. Some of these works are frequently displayed in our galleries; others are less well-known but equally fascinating. Each work has been selected for this display to highlight a different approach to depicting the human form. The works in this gallery vary from a series of self-portraits by women artists in the 1990s, a selection of sketches of family members by Duncan Grant, a sculptural depiction of a female Ancient Greek poet, and a self-portrait following an artist residency in the Usher Gallery itself.
We hope that this exhibition acts as a celebration of diversity both in our community and our public collection, including works that explore gender, race, disability and sexual orientation.
We'll be adding interpretation to the display at different times, and would love to hear your views on the selected works and imagined conversations between those represented.
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