New visual arts event Chester Contemporary launches in September

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Chester Contemporary is a major visual arts biennial which will feature new and existing work of international and Chester-based contemporary artists, including emerging artists and a creative engagement programme with communities and schools in the city. The event takes place from 22 September until 1 December 2023.

At the official launch on February 28 at Chester’s Storyhouse the artists confirmed for the core programme were revealed as John Akomfrah, Fiona Banner, Simeon Barclay, Jacq Bebb, Fischli Weiss, Tim Foxon, Ryan Gander, Hannah Perry, and Elizabeth Price. 

Art by Tim Foxon

Chester Contemporary is an initiative led by Cheshire West and Chester Council and funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Arts Council England as part of a programme to invigorate and grow visual arts. 

Chester Contemporary has been developed over the past two-years with Arts Council England funding, working with partners including the University of Chester, Storyhouse and Open Eye Gallery. At the heart of Chester Contemporary is a programme for local communities, children and young people.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “Chester has hosted a wide variety of exciting artistic events over the years and this year sees a huge leap forward with Chester Contemporary.

“There will be an emerging artist programme with five artists’ who are at a pivotal point in their careers being supported with professional development sessions, mentoring, and participation in the Contemporary’s artistic programme.

“The social engagement programme will include ‘The Feast on the Lache’, a community celebration co-created by the people of Lache with artist Lowri Evans and ‘The Start of All Imaginings’, a co-created work between artist Patricia Mackinnon-Day and Chester market traders. An education programme will work with ten schools across the city with work shown as part of the Contemporary.

Chester-born artist Ryan Gander returns to the city as Artist Director of the first Chester Contemporary. Ryan’s vision for Chester Contemporary is to be a ‘walking biennial’, where visitors come across playful interventions and provocative work found in and amongst the fabric of the city; where new and unexpected stories collide with Chester’s traditional and established historic narratives.

Ryan has established an international reputation through artworks that materialise in many different forms, ranging from sculpture, apparel and writing, to architecture, painting, typefaces, publications and performance. As well as curating exhibitions, he is a committed educator, having taught at international art institutions and universities, and has written and presented television programmes on and about contemporary art and culture for the BBC. His work involves a questioning of language and knowledge, as well as a reinvention of both the modes of appearance and the creation of an artwork.

Ryan is passionate about developing Chester’s visual arts scene and wants the Contemporary to shake up the expectations people may have of the city; to scratch beneath its surface and reveal a new kind of creative energy that’s unique to Chester. The Contemporary aims to make Chester a natural home for bold and ambitious visual art and artists.

The theme of the first edition of Chester Contemporary is ‘Centred on the Periphery’, an exploration of how those places on the edges of the centre, often just out of sight of the mainstream, can become the primary focus.

Ryan Gander, OBE RA said: “I love Chester. Actually, I miss it dearly, so I’m super excited to be coming back to my hometown to curate Chester Contemporary. This magical city I know so well, has always been a bubbling melting pot of artistic energy and potential. I think that with the catalytic support it deserves, the Contemporary will make Chester a serious destination for international visual arts and create a modern renaissance of creativity throughout the entire fabric of the place, leaving a mark on everyone who lives here and visits. ‘CC’ is not just an event for the people of Chester… they will own it.”

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