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Pictura Britannica: Art from Britain

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


22 Aug 1997 to 30 Nov 1997


Fiona Banner, Jordan Baseman, Richard Billingham, Christine Borland, David Cheeseman, Mat Collishaw, Critical Décor, Neil Cummings, Judith Dean, Willie Doherty, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Ceal Floyer, John Frankland, Anya Gallaccio, Rachel Glynne, Douglas Gordon, Paul Graham, Richard Hamilton, Damien Hirst, Nicky Hoberman, Louise Hopkins, Bethan Huws, Permindar Kaur, Joan Key, Tania Kovats, John Latham, Lucia Nogueira, Chris Offili, John Parsons, Richard Patterson, Gary Perkins, Vong Phaophanit, Yinka Shonibare, Georgina Starr, John Stezaker, Kerry Stewart, Maud Sulter, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mark Wallinger, Gillian Wearing, Rachel Whiteread, Andrea Wilkinson, Jane & Louise Wilson, Hermoine Wiltshire, Richard Wright, Catherine Yass


Bernice Murphy

about the exhibition

Pictura Britannica brought together over 100 works and 48 artists from all over Britain and was the first comprehensive showing of contemporary British art in Australia since 1985.

Pictura Britannica projected the image of a dynamic and culturally diverse Britain in the 1990s. Among those invited to participate were young emerging artists such as Louise Hopkins, Permindar Kaur and Richard Billingham, and high-profile artists including Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread, Vong Phaophanit, Anya Gallaccio and Douglas Gordon. Two senior artists, Richard Hamilton and John Latham, were selected because of the great relevance of their longstanding concerns to many of the younger artists.

Various themes were suggested throughout the exhibition: competing versions of nation; anxious relationships to nature; multiple layers and complex formations of identity; new spaces of social interaction in a media-shaped world; the changing role of a ‘citizen’ in modern society; contested stories of history, class and popular culture; the ambiguity of art’s status in a communications-driven society; traces of the past resurfacing in the present; social constructions of the body; the ambiguity of history; the subtlety of visual perception, auditory sensation, bodily presence and mark making.

Thematic contents, however, cannot be divorced from the particular forms, details and media through which artists realise their works. In quite specific ways artists convey ideas or constructs about the world – as it may be directly encountered, reconsidered, or even re-imagined.

Several artists visited Sydney for the exhibition – including Anya Gallaccio, John Frankland and Richard Wright – to make site-specific installations.

This exhibition formed part of newIMAGES, a year long program of events marking 50 years of the British Council’s presence in Australia.

Tour Itinerary

City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand: 27 February – 26 April 1998
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA: 22 August – 30 November 1998