A new exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, The more things change…, will showcase the work of the Blk Art Group.

"On Thursday 28 October, 1982, a group of black art students hosted The First National Convention of Black Art at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. Their purpose was to discuss 'the form, function and future of black art'" (Keith Piper, 2012). 
The convention organisers, who came to be known as the Blk Art Group, were instrumental in shaping the emerging British ‘Black Arts Movement’ through ground breaking creative practice, exhibitions, activism and events. 

The momentous event of 1982 attracted the likes of 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, recipient of the Venice Biennale 2022 Golden Lion, Sonia Boyce, internationally renowned abstract artist Sir Frank Bowling and acclaimed filmmaker Sir John Akomfrah, who will represent Great Britain in Venice at the 60th International Art Exhibition in 2024.  
The more things change…, tells the story of the Blk Art Group and through the public programme and symposia supported by the Freelands Foundation, it explores the Group’s relationship to the wider British Black Arts Movement of the 1980s and beyond. In line with Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s commitment to presenting a comprehensive view of the emergence of Black Art in the 1980s to the present day, the exhibition aims to increase visibility of the artworks created by those involved in the British Black Arts Movement.  
The City of Wolverhampton Council's Director of Communications and Visitor Experience Ian Fegan said: "This was and is a pivotal point in Wolverhampton’s heritage and within arts and culture. 
"The work created by these talented artists, on display as part of The more things change… exhibition, was important then and even more important now for future generations to see in the city’s collection."
Head of Wolverhampton School of Art at the University of Wolverhampton Maggie Ayliffe said: "This academic year marks 40 years since the first Black Art Convention hosted in Wolverhampton School of Art. 

"It never ceases to amaze me that a group of undergraduate and emerging artists took the initiative in 1982 to challenge and literally change the face of art practice in the UK. The success of this group both as individuals and a collective has inspired some of our undergraduate students of colour to pick up the baton and give voice to the issues that concern them today – and we look forward to celebrating their successes in the future."
Carol Thompson, Senior Curator for Wolverhampton Art and Culture, added: "The history of the Blk Art Group is intertwined with Wolverhampton and the city’s Art Gallery so this is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Group and reconsider the importance of its legacy on British art 40 years since its formation. 

"In 1981 the Gallery was the first public institution to host an exhibition by young black artists, most of whom are featured in The more things change… Wolverhampton Art Gallery is proud to now hold one of the most significant collections of works by Black British artists, and we continue to champion their art in our programme of exhibitions, events and development work."
The more things change… open from Saturday 29 April until Sunday 9 July, is co-curated by Dr Sylvia Theuri, Dr Ian Sergeant and Wolverhampton Art Gallery. It presents works produced by key artists of the Blk Art Group, along with new commissions. The featured artists are Claudette Johnson, Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Marlene Smith and Janet Vernon. 
This exhibition is the outcome of a partnership between Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton School of Art, and the Blk Art Group Research Project (Keith Piper, Marlene Smith and Claudette Johnson). In addition, a convention that takes inspiration from the First National Convention of Black Art of 1982 will be devised and delivered in partnership with Wolverhampton School of Art students, aspiring Black artists, academics, and activists.  
The Blk Art Group (1979 to 1984) had a substantial impact on the visual arts in Britain, providing a backdrop and foundation upon which emerged artists of South Asian, African, and Afro Caribbean descent making artwork that came to be known as the British ‘Black Arts Movement’. The curators believe it is essential that the group and its work continue to be highlighted as a key part of the arts and cultural narrative in Wolverhampton and the wider region.