As museums in London struggle to attract audiences or close down altogether because of COVID, visual art continues to flourish, despite the imminence of winter, in open-air city spaces.
A case in point is a show by the photographer Niki Gorick, whose work is currently on view in the City of London, having recently moved a few steps from one outdoor location to another: Paternoster Square to Aldgate Square. Her show is entitled Faith in The City and is about the impact of religion in London’s financial hub. Not just the Christian religion. Other faiths are represented as well.
Basically, this is a documentary show
It aims to tell its audience what actually exists. It looks at traditional ceremonies, but also at quiet, everyday reactions. It also illustrates how different faiths react to one another, sometimes in shared settings. One message is that religion and money are not always at odds. Another is that religion, despite everything, retains an essential role in contemporary British society. And yet another is that certainly in contrast with the comparatively recent past, women have an increasingly active role in British religious life. Within the context of the City of London, this seems to be especially true of the Anglican version of the Christian faith. This is unsurprising, given that Anglicanism still enjoys the official role in Britain that it acquired at the time of the Reformation. Coronations, for example, are Anglican ceremonies. Even so, there are examples here of ceremonies that go much further back – inheritances from the medieval past. What many of the images give on is a sense that, despite all upheavals, there is a powerful continuity in British culture, and that this in turn, despite all upheavals, financial as well as religious, has been sustained by faith.
Niki Gorick images, as can be seen from the illustration offered here, are presented in a directly accessible way. No need to book a timed slot to see the show, which is what you must do now when you go to a museum. Just wander around on impulse and see what’s on offer.
At the moment there’s a great deal of fuss going on, concerning the wish, on the part of those officially in charge of major London institutions, to democratise contemporary visual art. The cry is: ‘Yes, come and see the images of primary school classes now on view in the main space at Tate Britain. Those will show you how truly democratic we are!’ To which the retort must be: ‘Not as truly democratic as these, freely on view in the open air, in the very middle of Britain’s traditional financial hub.’ You are not being told what to think. Only to think for yourself.
The City of London Corporation is staging an outside exhibition of images from the book in Paternoster Square from 3rd – 28th October and then at Aldgate Square from 29th October to 27th November. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/faith-in-the-city-of-london?mc_cid=70a95bbd53&mc_eid=0e3b80e359