Great Big Art Exhibition invites locked-down Brits to put creativity on show

Some of British art’s biggest names, including Antony Gormley, Sonia Boyce and Anish Kapoor, are encouraging Britons to turn their front windows into a gallery as part of a nationwide initiative to create a “magical patchwork of creativity”.

The Great Big Art Exhibition was launched on Thursday by Gormley, who is the first artist to choose a theme for people at home to be inspired by as they create work to contribute to what organisers are calling the nation’s largest ever exhibition.

Gormley chose the theme of animals for participants to riff on, and people are encouraged to make their artworks out of what they have at hand. The results – be they paintings, sculptures or something less traditional – are to be placed on a front porch, balcony or window.

Sally Shaw, the director of Firstsite, the Colchester-based arts organisation behind the initiative, said the project was about spreading happiness and creativity as the country deals with the long lockdown, with art galleries closed.

(Left to right) Shalomy, 10, Benjamin, six, and Stephanie, eight, display their animal artworks in a window
(Left to right) Shalomy, 10, Benjamin, six, and Stephanie, eight, display their animal artworks in a window. Photograph: David Parry/PA

“The doors to our collections and galleries might be shut but our imaginations are forever open. Making, showing and experiencing art has created so much joy, connection and solace for many thousands of people,” she said.

Historical works from UK galleries are being made available for download so they can be used as a template or inspiration, and participants are encouraged to collaborate virtually with others, from sports teams or schools to religious groups.

“I can’t wait to see a brand new nationwide art gallery appearing before our eyes in coming days, weeks and months,” Shaw said. “This is sure to be an incredible expression of people’s creativity.

Sonia Boyce, who will represent the UK at the next Venice Biennale, has chosen the second theme, portraits, to follow Gormley’s, and the project will run until April.

Directors of Tate, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Museums Liverpool and others have selected works including Lubaina Himid’s Freedom and Change, Yinka Shonibare’s Cheeky Little Astronomer, Darvish Fakhr’s portrait of Akram Khan and Claude Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond.

Other artists who are supporting the project include Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal, Tai Shani, Jeremy Deller, David Shrigley, Ai Weiwei and Ryan Gander.

Art has proven to be a popular lockdown pursuit for Britons. Coffee table books have been released featuring artists including Mickalene Thomas and George Condo with do-it-yourself guides to making art.

Care home residents and art students have embraced making work in isolation, while initiatives such as Artists Walk have displayed pieces by artists including Jeremy Deller in front windows as part of curated local art exhibitions that can be viewed safely from outdoors.

The Guardian

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