You can tell something different is going on. Colour has appeared on the stone walls and floors of Somerset House and Scottish artist Huw Locke (currently on show at the Perez Art Museum in Miami) has provided one of his colourful irreverent coats of arts, reminding us that this building used to be a centre of the British Empire, first when our ships explored and ruled the world and later when Inland Revenue and other Government Departments, including the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, were based here. I wonder how many of these certificates related to individuals who came as immigrants to our shores? By coincidence, Huw Locke’s work in Miami is called ‘For Those In Peril on the Sea’, focused on what people have done to move from one country to another to find a better life, sometimes at extreme danger to themselves.
The exhibition starts with work by the black filmmaker and photographer Horace Ové and the talented individuals from the Windrush generation, moving quickly to today’s amazing creative talent, with many works created specially for the exhibition – a huge amount to see and absorb in what is a relatively small floor area in the West Wing of Somerset House, exploding with creativity, with musical talent not forgotten as it runs through the exhibition in a variety of different ways, including performances, and there are links to London festivals such as the Notting Hill Carnival. Architecture is here also and we have David Adjaye’s recent Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, recently also included in his exhibition at the Design Museum.
A really great touch is that several of the artists today have studio spaces in Somerset House and are part of the creative community in this part of London – this is a win-win for the artists, Somerset House and the exhibition.