Wolverhampton Art Gallery has been announced as a partner in a new national 3 year project to accelerate artists’ careers and public art collections and celebrate cultural diversity.

The Decolonising Arts Institute at University of the Arts London (UAL) 20/20 programme will combine artist residencies with artistic commissioning at scale. It will bring together 20 emerging artists of colour and 20 UK public art collections leading to 20 new permanent acquisitions. 

Funded by Freelands Foundation, Arts Council England and UAL, 20/20 responds to urgent calls for action within arts and culture, to tackle social inequities and racial injustices amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in the wake of Black Lives Matter. The commissioning and network programme will support ethnically diverse artists to take up residencies with public art collections across the country; leading to the collections’ permanent acquisition of new commissioned works, a series of commissioned texts; and a public programme bringing artists, curators and writers into conversation. 

The project will directly invest in the development of a new generation of ethnically diverse artists who may identify as black, brown, or as people of colour. Following open calls in early 2022 and 2023.

Creating a network of partnerships geographically and online, 20/20 sets out to build stronger relationships between UK collections. It will support inclusive engagement between collections and the communities they serve, to generate richer understanding of collections’ histories and the contributions of under-represented or overlooked artists in their midst. 

20/20 partners include: Birmingham Museums Trust; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; Bradford District Museums and Galleries; Compton Verney, Warwickshire; Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow; Harris Museum, Preston; The Hepworth, Wakefield; Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry; Kettle's Yard, Cambridge; Leeds Art Gallery; Manchester Art Gallery; Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art (MIMA); National Disability Arts Collection & Archive (NDACA); Pallant House Gallery, Chichester; Sheffield Museums Trust; The Box, Plymouth; Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool; and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: ”Wolverhampton is a culturally diverse city, and the collection, housed at Wolverhampton Art Gallery allows us to share people’s stories and keep amazing works for future generations to see. 

“It is fantastic that Wolverhampton Art Gallery has been announced as one of the 20/20 partners and I am certain the creative people of Wolverhampton will get involved so that we can make a difference within the arts and culture sector.”
Professor susan pui san lok, Director, UAL Decolonising Arts Institute, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support of Freelands Foundation and Arts Council England in making 20/20 possible. Following an extraordinary eighteen months, 20/20 is a response to urgent calls for artworld actions to follow words and gestures, and move ‘Beyond the Black Square’. The project aims to catalyse artists’ careers and change in collections, bringing artists, curators, writers, collections and local, national and international audiences into conversation.”

Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College in Cambridge, Freelands Foundation Diversity Action Group Chair, said: “The Freelands Foundation Diversity Action Group is committed to creating the conditions in which Black and Brown artists in the UK are able to thrive: removing barriers and creating pathways into the sector in order to transform the experiences of artists and audiences.

“These 2 new grants are a landmark in terms of our continuing commitment to addressing racial inequality throughout the visual arts. We look forward to seeing the real impact these bold programmes will have on the cultural landscape of the UK, and to celebrating future generations of diverse artists inspired by these projects.”

Sabine Unamun, Director, London, Arts Council England, said: “A dynamic cultural sector needs diversity of thought and people – so it is vital that pathways are generated that allow creative people from all backgrounds to reach their potential. Thanks to National Lottery funding, the Arts Council is pleased to support 20/20. This ambitious programme will help nurture the talent and career development of two cohorts of Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse artists whilst they work closely with museums and art galleries across the UK.”

James Purnell, UAL President and Vice-Chancellor, said: “This is a profoundly important project. Our Decolonising Arts Institute, with support from Freelands Foundation and Arts Council England, is leading critical and creative interventions in collections to bring about wider change in the art world. Its impact will be felt across the UK.”

20/20 is one of 2 projects to be awarded a total of £800k in a second round of funding announced by Freelands Foundation, as part of their £3 million fund to address racial inequality in the visual arts. Together, this new long-term funding awarded to UAL Decolonising Arts Institute and Wysing Arts Centre will see 120 artists collaborating with almost 30 museums and galleries across the UK, promising a ripple effect across the sector.