Black Art Exhibitions in Britain (1988)

… The organisers of the exhibition do not see art and artists as being beyond the ken of the layman. To bridge the gap between life and art it is intended to hold a seminar during the period of the exhibition to discuss the direction black art is taking at present.

Setting these exhibitions in the context of the previously mentioned types of exhibitions, it is not difficult to view CFL’s initiatives as being radical and progressive. After all, like the Organisation for Black Arts Advancement and Leisure Activities (OBAALA) their counterparts in North London, they actively embody the timeless maxim of black struggle: NONE BUT OURSELVES.

“Action, self-reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realised the light of their own freedom.”

Firstly, these exhibitions refuse to recognise any sort of artistic hierarchy. So, supposedly ‘professional’ artists submit their work alongside so-called ‘amateurs’. And having gone through the selection process, such artists are hung side by side. So within the exhibition space, a brother and sisterhood of black artists is created. Anyone who considers himself or herself to be an artist is free, is in fact encouraged to enter work. So the humiliating process of having to ‘prove’ or ‘sell’ one’s artistic merit in order to gain access to gallery space is totally done away with. In other words, these Open Exhibitions treat all black artists with a degree of respect seldom offered by white art administrators.

Secondly, CFL approaches, and deals with these exhibitions in their totality. They secure the exhibition venue, they contact the artists, they direct the publicity campaign, they take care of the administration, and they appoint invigilators for the duration of the exhibition. This means that black artists get to exhibit their work without having to endure the clumsy, insensitive interference of the white art establishment. And that’s how it should always be. Which is much, much more than can be said for exhibitions such as ‘Into the Open’, in which the administrative infrastructure has been white, yet the artists have been black…

The above extracts are from a text, "Black Art Exhibitions in Britain", Race Today, January/February 1988: 26-27. This piece was first published in Creation for Liberation's Open Exhibition of Art by Black Artists 1987 catalogue, by Eddie Chambers