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From Two Worlds

Group show at Fruitmarket Gallery, Whitechapel Art Gallery. 1986
Date: 30 July, 1986 until 7 September, 1986
Curator: Nicholas Serota and Gavin Jantjes
Organiser: Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, was the venue for From Two Worlds exhibition, 30 July - 7 September 1986. Originated by Nicholas Serota and Gavin Jantjes, the exhibition featured Rasheed Araeen, Saleem Arif, Franklyn Beckford, Zadok Ben-David, Zarina Bhimji, The Black Audio Film Collective, Sonia Boyce, Sokari Douglas Camp, Denzil Forrester, Lubaina Himid, Gavin Jantjes, Tam Joseph, Houria Niati, Keith Piper, Veronica Ryan, and Shafique Uddin. From Two Worlds was a major undertaking and was at the time the most substantial exhibition of Black artists’ work at a major London gallery. Predictably perhaps, it featured the work of a number of relatively prominent Black artists. However, it also featured the work of a number of other artists, thereby representing an intriguing mix of practitioners. The exhibition generated a significant catalogue with an Introduction by Serota and Jantjes, and an essay Juggling Worlds by Adeola Solanke. The exhibition, which toured to Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh (9 November 1986 - January 3 1987), generated a significant amount of press coverage.

A year after From Two Worlds took place, Keith Piper’s Foreword in the catalogue accompanying The Image Employed: the use of narrative in Black art. [Curated by Keith Piper and Marlene Smith, Cornerhouse, Manchester, 13 June - 19 July 1987] was constructed around an invaluable critical reading of the recent history of Black artists’ exhibitions in the United Kingdom. Piper provided the reader with a potted history of the emergence of Black British artists and their piecemeal, halting engagement with mainstream galleries. In this regard, Piper referenced exhibitions such as From Two Worlds.

About the exhibition, Piper wrote, “Within recent years, Black artists approached by White institutions to select shows have in some cases been able to construct themes around which the show can be contextualised. A recent example of this being the Whitechapel’s well-resourced exhibition, ‘From Two Worlds’. Here, an attempt was made to structure a show around the complex and intricate notion of cultural ‘reciprocity’: in short, the use and merging of diverse cultural references within the work of Black artists. Fascinating as this concept may be, the prioritisation of reciprocity is by no means a concern shared by a large portion of the Black arts community. Insensitivity to this fact, along with a sorry lack of detailed discussion of the implications of the theme at the point of selection, led to a show which to all intents and purposes looked and operated as if it had been formulated within the classic ‘survey’ mould. Namely, an insensitive lumping together of a hotch-potch of art objects apparently linked only by the ‘non-European-ness’ of their makers,”

(There is though, no record of Piper having voiced these sceptical sentiments before his inclusion in From Two Worlds).

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People in this exhibition + view all 16

»  Saleem Arif Quadri MBE

Born, 1949 in Hyderabad, India

»  Franklyn Beckford

Born, 1963 in London, England

»  Zadok Ben-David

Born in Beihan, Yemen, date unknown

»  Gavin Jantjes

Born, 1948 in Cape Town, South Africa

»  Tam Joseph

Born, 1947 in Dominica

Exhibition venues

»  Fruitmarket Gallery

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

»  Whitechapel Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom