The Harris announced as a partner for Imperial War Museums’ £2.5m art commissioning programme
The Harris is part of the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, a national partnership programme of over 20 ambitious artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict. Led by Imperial War Museums, the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund was created following the success of 14- 18 NOW, the official UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.
Nine new art commissions that tackle subjects ranging from rebuilding after the Second World War to reconciliation in the aftermath of the Troubles in Northern Ireland will each receive £20,000 from Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) art commissioning programme.
Funded with a share of the royalties from Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film They Shall Not Grow Old, the new commissions take various forms including original brass band compositions, large scale street art and film installations.
The Harris joins a diverse existing cohort of partners from across the UK, including several other War and Conflict Subject Specialist Network members and five major partners that have been appointed by IWM as co-commissioners, each to receive £250,000. Working with five world-leading artists including Turner Prize nominees, these five commissions explore themes ranging from care work in conflict to the current refugee crisis.
The Harris’ Artist Commission
In 1908, the Harris commissioned artist John Somerscales to create one of the most unique features of the building, the Egyptian Balcony. A series of painted murals inspired by a research trip to Egypt, which includes key historical sites and interpretations of ancient tomb paintings – the organisations first art commission and arguably its most significant to date.
Remarkably, the relationship between Preston and Egypt has been little explored, despite representations of this country being at the very heart of the building. A new display in 2025 will consider why there are Egyptian artefacts in the collection, the motivations behind the creation of the Egyptian Balcony, and Egypt as a crucial supplier of cotton to Lancashire’s textile mills. Considering the British Empire, its interests in Egypt and Britain’s occupation of Egypt until the 1950s.
The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund will support the Harris to commission an artist of Egyptian heritage to work with local communities to explore these shared histories of conflict and the connections that exist between Preston and Egypt – creating a new artwork that will go on display in 2025 and become part of the museum’s permanent collection.
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Rebecca Newell, Head of Art for Imperial War Museums says, “The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy fund builds on Imperial War Museums’ rich and longstanding history of commissioning art. One year into this programme, we are delighted by the diversity of exceptional arts experiences that have been created and shared with audiences. We look forward to expanding this work with artists, organisations and communities across the UK, continuing to highlight stories of conflict in engaging and creative ways.”
The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund commissions forge new opportunities for artistic engagement and bring art to audiences in new and relevant ways. The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund commissions will go on public display across the UK between 2023 and 2025. For further information about the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, please visit the IWM website.
When the Harris re-opens in 2025, it will be a timely opportunity to harness the legacy of the 14-18 NOW funding to explore the significant stories in new displays. The proposed commission will be displayed on the second-floor balcony and use the Harris’ unique collections to draw-out stories relevant to young people, local people and family audiences today. Community partners will bring an intergenerational focus, and a diversity of viewpoints to both the commission, and its interpretation.
Harris Your Place
Harris Your Place is a £16 million project set to restore and reimagine the Harris for 21st-century audiences as a cultural learning space. The aim of this project is to protect the building and the architecture for future generations whilst enhancing accessibility options and positioning the Harris as a community hub for Preston and Lancashire.
The capital project is more than simply preserving this much-loved building; Harris wants to ensure that it remains a vibrant heart of the community. A place where people want to spend their time.
IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund
The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund is a national partnership programme of over 20 artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict. Led by Imperial War Museums, the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund was created following the success of 14-18 NOW, the official UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.
To mark the end of the First World War centenary, Imperial War Museums and 14-18 NOW worked together to co-commission the critically acclaimed film They Shall Not Grow Old by Academy Award winner Peter Jackson, which was seen by nearly 5 million people globally. Following the unprecedented success of the film, 14-18 NOW and IWM agreed that a share of the film’s royalties would be used to support a new programme of artist commissions, the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund. A total of £2.5 million is being made available to artists and cultural organisations across the UK.
Through the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, IWM is now working in partnership with cultural organisations from across the UK to commission over 20 ambitious new artworks inspired by the heritage of conflict and created by world-leading and emerging contemporary artists. These new commissions will forge new opportunities for artistic engagement, bring art to audiences in new and relevant ways by connecting people, places and experiences, and kick-start cultural dialogue as we recover from the wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19. The commissions will go on public display across the UK from 2022.
IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.
Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.
IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that has recently transformed with new, permanent and free Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.
14-18 NOW was a programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations between 2014 and 2018. It commissioned new work by leading contemporary artists across all art forms; the programme included over 420 artists from 40 countries, taking place in more than 220 locations across the UK. 35 million people experienced the programme, including 8 million children and young people. 14-18 NOW won many awards for its work.
14-18 NOW was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, by the DCMS, and with additional funding from The Backstage Trust, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Clore Duffield Foundation, British Council, NatWest and support from individuals.