I’ve lived in Southampton for 25 years, and it has now reached its best state yet for art tourists:
- The City Art Gallery is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. It has an excellent permanent collection – most famously, perhaps, Edward Burne Jones’ Perseus Series. The new show ‘Beyond the Brotherhood: The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy’ expands from there (to 1 Feb – note however that the gallery has the oddest opening hours I’ve ever encountered, closing at 3pm every weekday)
- The John Hansard Gallery, linked to Southampton University, moved off the campus to an expanded city centre space in 2018. You can currently (to 11 Jan) immerse yourself in several installations by Haroon Mirza, including ‘Dreamachine 2.0’ 2019, a mesmerising psychedlic scrambling of the brain frequencies at room scale, and ‘/\/\/\/\/\/\’ (above).
- Southampton Solent University has a more modest but equally central space. To 20 Dec that has an interesting reflection on the history of ‘Shebeens’ – blues parties – in the local black community in the 70’s and 80’s. It mixes documentary records with the art of Gerard Hudson.
God’s House Tower, Southampton, exterior. November 2019. Courtesy of ‘a space’ arts / God’s House Tower.
- God’s House Tower is a new conversion – seven years in the making – of a 700 year old building which was a key part of Southampton’s defences in its days as a walled city of strategic importance. It’s a tourist attraction in its own right, and has live events and an amenable cafe – but is also running a distinctive art programme in three gallery spaces: historic work with local links plus new commissions by local artists for which the materials of the building are made available as a resource. The image below is from Kane Applegate’s ‘Transition’, a sculptural installation of objects uncovered during the renovations.
So Southampton is well worth an art visit – and I would say ‘see you there!’ – were I not more often in London, Berlin, Basel, Paris etc…
Art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent sees a lot of shows: we asked him to jot down whatever came into his head