Three major artworks secured for The Box, Plymouth’s collections


Kehinde Wiley, Narrenschiff, 2017

The Box, Plymouth has acquired three major contemporary works of art for its permanent collections, including a work by Kehinde Wiley – the artist who recently painted Barack Obama’s portrait and the final ever commissioned portrait by and of Michael Jackson.

The works were acquired through the Contemporary Art Society’s prestigious Collections Fund Prize. Founded in 2012, the Fund is one of the highest valued contemporary art awards in the UK and is given to only one member of the Contemporary Art Society each year.

The Box was selected after a competitive application process open to the Contemporary Art Society’s 70 Museum Members and has been working with representatives from the Collections Fund Committee over the summer to research and select the works.

The acquisitions were announced this afternoon at Frieze, a major annual art fair that takes place in London and features more than 160 of the world’s leading galleries.

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader said: “Being selected for this year’s Collections Fund Prize is a real honour and we are thrilled to have been able to work with the Contemporary Art Society on such important acquisitions. Acquiring new work by established and emerging international artists is a major boost for the city’s collections. We can’t wait to see how our visitors’ respond to them at The Box when it opens.”

Zadie Xa, 91 Chyzanthemumz 4 Imsook, 2018

The first work is Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools) by American artist Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977). The three-channel film installation is narrated by acclaimed actress C.C.H. Pounder, who has previously appeared in ER and the epic science fiction film, ‘Avatar’.

Narrenschiff explores our enduring relationship with the sea as well as wider issues about migration and territory and shows a group of men from remote island nations as they navigate the ocean shallows. In one scene their faces peer above the water’s edge, in another they silently stand in groups contemplating the sea. Another shot offers a bird’s-eye view as they swim together.

Wiley, who has studios in both New York and Beijing, is known for his paintings of young black men and women in the style of European Old Masters. His work features in the permanent collections of many prominent institutions throughout the USA. He has exhibited in the USA, UK, France, Italy, Korea and Mexico.

The other two works are by Canadian-born, London-based artist Zadie Xa (b. 1983); a mixed media mask (Xihxo) and a cloak created from assorted fabrics (91 Chyzanthemumz 4 Imsook). Alongside the other works she has shown at Frieze this year, the pieces explore Xa’s interest in parallel dimensions, storytelling and theatrical staging.

Xa, who has studied at the Royal College of Art, London and Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver has exhibited in the USA, UK, Canada, France and Italy.

Nicola Moyle, Head of Heritage, Art and Film at The Box said: “With the wonderful permanent collection we have here in Plymouth, and the city’s links to famous artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, the way Kehinde Wiley’s work references the Old Masters and portrait painting tradition is really significant for us. Craft has a long and important history in the South West too which makes our Zadie Xa acquisitions equally as important.

“The themes that Wiley and Xa’s work explore, such as identity, journeys and the overlapping of cultures are extremely relevant for Plymouth, especially as we build towards our Mayflower 400 commemorations in 2020. We’re excited about being able to display these works for new audiences in the future.”

Caroline Douglas, Director at the Contemporary Art Society, said: “We have been privileged to work with the curators at Plymouth while they have been developing ambitious new directions for the museum. In choosing works by these two international artists we feel certain they will make a huge impact and hope they will establish new territory for future collecting and exhibition making.”

Find out more visit The Box, Plymouth here.

To find out more about the Contemporary Art Society visit their website.

Find out more about Frieze here.