Works by John Akomfrah and Yinka Shonibare join public collections with Art Fund support

Two major commissions for 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, are to be acquired by museums and galleries in Bristol, Glasgow and Wolverhampton.

Art Fund and 14-18 NOW have joined forces to help public museums and galleries acquire two of 14-18 NOW’s major co-commissions, by Yinka Shonibare CBE and John Akomfrah.

Shonibare’s End of Empire will be acquired jointly by Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery, while Akomfrah’s Mimesis: African Soldier will be acquired by Glasgow Museums and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Mimesis: African Soldier will be a powerful addition to Bristol and Glasgow Museums’ collection, visibly telling the stories of people from the Commonwealth who were called on to serve in war for Britain and addressing a significant gap in the story of the First World War in Glasgow Museums.

In Wolverhampton, the joint acquisition of End of Empire with Bristol will be a further boost to the collection of work focusing on the British Black Art movement and its legacy.

Jenny Waldman, director of 14-18 NOW, said: ‘We are delighted that these two works, which were both major commissions for our 14-18 NOW programme, will be acquired for public museums and galleries. This is an important legacy of 14-18 NOW and its support for projects which shine a light on the contribution which was made by soldiers from Commonwealth countries during the First World War.’

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said: ‘These two works by artists John Akomfrah and Yinka Shonibare, commissioned by 14-18 NOW, have belatedly brought a focus – once shamefully ignored – upon the part played by Commonwealth countries in Britain’s national narrative, whether in combat or in the wider context of Empire.

‘With the First World War centenary still fresh in the collective memory, Art Fund is proud to be helping secure these important works for Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and its partners to share with visitors in perpetuity.’

Councillor Craig Cheney, deputy mayor of Bristol, said: ‘These works will be major acquisitions for Bristol, Glasgow and Wolverhampton. They reflect on aspects of a shared history that is pertinent to our cities and can be difficult to discuss. John Akomfrah and Yinka Shonibare bring uncomfortable histories to light in unflinching, expansive works that communicate eloquently.

‘It’s incredibly exciting to have a chance to work with these artists and we are grateful to Art Fund and 14-18 NOW for the generosity of these gifts. They continue a vital conversation in our cities and will have a permanent legacy in our museum collections. Joint acquisitions widen access to these important works and we’re delighted to be able to work as partners to bring work by these internationally acclaimed artists to our cities.’

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