Ten’s to See: Get Up, Stand Up Now at Somerset House

Armet Francis, ‘Fashion Shoot Brixton Market’, 1973.

It’s not often you get to attend an exhibition which is so vast in cultural history and significance, yet curated in such a thorough, refined manner that you are not left feeling overwhelmed. Get Up, Stand Up Now at Somerset House does exactly that. Celebrating 50 years of black creativity in Britain and beyond, the exhibition holds work from over 100 interdisciplinary artists, from sculptures and technicolored paintings to poetry and tender queer photography. Curated by Zak Ové, the exhibition space is splashed in a vivid rainbow hue, each cubbyhole seeping out with rich, cross-generational art exploring both the black experience and the immense influence black artists have had on Britain’s creative industries.

The work of Ové’s father, Horace Ové, along with his peers from the Windrush Generation, shape the exhibition’s beginnings. Stunning shots of some serious 1970’s fashions in Notting Hill Carnival and Brixton Market, as well as beautifully captured imagery of diasporic communities dotted across the capital are particular highlights. Spreading from the post-war era to contemporary times, the exhibition highlights how the work of each generation of artists informs the next. Little cabinets of curiosities hold flyers from niche rock n’ roll nights, comics depicting Bob Marley’s 1977 ban from Britain and a BOY London rave t-shirt courtesy of Martine Rose, donated to her by one of her raving cousins when she was just nine years old.

More stellar moments include a neon structure crafted by 12 Years A Slave director and Turner Art Prize winner Steve McQueen, re-interpreted from a piece created around the time of his critically acclaimed film instillation Ashes back in 2002. Photography work from Campbell Addy and Ajamu perfectly captures a portrayal of queer black Britishness which is both delicate and honest, whilst a low-slung patent lather suit from Mowalola re-introduces the afrofuturistic cowboys she debuted at her Central Saint Martins graduate collection back in 2017. Luckily, for those who are cramped in an office 9-5, the exhibition is open all summer long – the perfect way to fill a drizzly Saturday afternoon in July we say.

Get Up, Stand Up Now is open at Somerset House until September 15.


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