GSK Contemporary Earth: Art of a changing world: Royal Academy

GSK Contemporary: Earth is the second annual contemporary art season at 6 Burlington Gardens. The exhibition will present new and recent work from more than 30 leading international contemporary artists, including commissions and new works from the best emerging talent

“This second year of GSK Contemporary is an important collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline and the Royal Academy that builds on our long-standing support for the arts in the UK. Creativity and innovation are critical to our business of improving health and well-being, so we want this year’s topic ‘Earth’ to encourage debate, discussion and creative thinking and the role art can play on the relevance that climate change has on our daily lives.”

About the exhibition

For more than a decade, scientists and politicians have been arguing with each other, and amongst themselves, with regard to the speed of climate change and the impact of our lives today on the environment within which the human race exists. Recent debates have centred less on the possibility and more on the certainty and speed with which change will take place. As the debate has developed, so too has our approach to the future.

This year GSK Contemporary sets out to consider the impact of climate change, and our transition to a new world, on the practice of a broad range of contemporary artists, working in a wide-variety of media. Some of the artists featured are heavily involved in the issue itself, others have shown it to find a place, or resonances, within their work but not as a singular, direct focus. Many of the artists in this exhibition have achieved success in their work by transforming the global scale of climate change into a human narrative. The works on show will create an exhibition that is close to the edge, bravely metamorphosing ‘issue’ and ‘art’, whilst beautiful, powerful and thought-provoking. The exhibition does not aim to preach nor admonish, whilst at its heart sits the overwhelming quality of the individual works and the overall aesthetic, visual and experiential impact that the exhibition strives to achieve.


The show will begin with an introduction to the key factors that make up the natural world and the actions and activities that are impacting upon the equilibrium. Works by artists including Ackroyd & Harvey, Spencer Finch, Mona Hatoum and Marcos Lutyens & Alessandro Marianantoni, engage with the earth, air, sky, nature and carbon elements to encourage a deeper consideration of our cultural relationship to earth’s stability.

Perceived Reality

The second section of the exhibition will represent our world as we imagine it today. Artists such as Antti Laitinen and Edward Burtynsky will reflect the perceived security of our existence, safe in the knowledge that we are intelligent enough to know that the world is round and not flat, but still naive in imagining that it responds to our authority and control.

Artist as Explorer and Reflector

At the centre of the show sits a group of exhibits that help us understand the role of the artist in the cycle of our evolution. In this section we are able to consider the role of artist as communicator, reflector and interpreter of key issues of their day. Historically, in the time of Darwin, David Livingstone and Captain Cook, then subsequently in the World Wars, artists have played a crucial part in recording man’s explorations, conquerings and discoveries whilst ‘describing’ them in such a way as to make them more understandable, more striking to a wider world. Within this section artists Sophie Calle, Lucy & Jorge Orta, Cornelia Parker, the poet Lemn Sissay and Shiro Takatani hold up a mirror to our changing world, producing work that will encourage us to examine the issues from a variety of angles, to reflect and question. Other works will confront the viewer with the consequences of human behaviour through natural disasters and physical collapse, counterpoising the beauty of the planet with the damage that is being

Duration 03 December 2009 - 31 January 2010
Times 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm) Late night openings: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm) - except 1 January (closes 6pm)
Cost £7 full price
Venue Royal Academy of Arts
Address Burlington House, 6 Burlington Gardens London W1J 0BD, ,
Contact 020 7300 8000 / /

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