CAS acquires work by Kehinde Wiley and Zadie Xa at Frieze Art Fair for a new museum in Plymouth

3 October 2018 By
Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund at Frieze acquires work by two North American artists whose practice considers questions of identity, race and belonging
Kehinde Wiley’s first film installation Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools), 2017 and two works by Zadie Xa donated to Plymouth ahead of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from the city

The Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund at Frieze has acquired Kehinde Wiley’s first film installation and two works – a cloak and mask that relate to her performance practice – by Zadie Xa, who has a solo stand in the Focus section of the fair. Both works will be donated to The Box, Plymouth, a new museum and art gallery opening in 2020 that brings together six of the city’s collections into one venue.

Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools), 2017 by Kehinde Wiley from Stephen Friedman Gallery is a three-screen digital film projection that produces an immersive experience for the viewer. Wiley’s film is an emotionally affecting and visually compelling portrait of a group of black men at sea, capturing the full spectrum of the human condition. The film, which features an original score by composer Maxim Budnick, is narrated by acclaimed actress CCH Pounder who reads from Michel Foucault’s ‘Madness and Civilization’ and Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. The figures appear at one with the ocean, an enduring relationship throughout history, whilst suggesting wider concerns of international territories and governance.

A mask (Xixho, 2018) and cloak (91 Chyzanthemumz 4 Imsook, 2018) by Zadie Xa from Union Pacific relate to the performance work that is at the heart of her practice. Xa explores her own identity and her outsider’s perspective of Korean culture through film and performance, textiles and painting. Korean shamanic practice, the experience of the Asian diaspora and contemporary street fashion all feature in her work. The intricately hand-sewn 91 Chyzanthemumz 4 Imsook stitches together familiar motifs such as yinyang symbols, knives, lucky numbers and monolid eyes. Xa uses these exaggerated symbols to both engage with Eurocentric perceptions of Asian identity and to create alternative, fantastical identity narratives.

The three works, by two North American artists of different generations, explore questions of identity and belonging from different perspectives. They join a collection in Plymouth which has traditionally had a strong focus on portraiture, with Sir Joshua Reynolds being one of the most famous sons of the city.  In recent years the CAS has donated works including paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Ryan Mosley. The opening of The Box will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, a symbol of early European colonialism in North America.

The Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund was set up in 2012 and is designed to support the acquisition of significant contemporary works for Contemporary Art Society Museum Members across the UK, drawing together the knowledge and experience of private collectors with that of museum curators.

Caroline Douglas, Director, 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 the works by these two international artists, which will form part of the reopening displays for the new institution, we feel certain that they will not only make a huge impact on audiences in Plymouth but hope that they will establish new territory for future collecting and exhibition making there. This feels like an exciting moment to be acquiring work by Kehinde Wiley and Zadie Xa – the Committee was moved by a film that is a bold new direction in Wiley’s practice, and related strongly to Xa’s complex practice as well as the beauty of her textile works.”

Nicola Moyle, Head of Heritage, Art and Film at The Box, Plymouth said: “With the wonderful permanent collection that Plymouth has, 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 of England too which makes our Zadie Xa acquisition equally as important.

“The themes that Wiley and Xa’s work explore, such as migration, identity and the overlapping of cultures are extremely relevant for Plymouth, especially as we build towards our Mayflower 400 commemorations in 2020. We are thrilled to have been able to work with the Contemporary Art Society on such important acquisitions and can’t wait to see how our visitors respond to them at The Box when we open.”

Jo Stella-Sawicka, Artistic Director, Frieze London and Frieze Sculpture, said: “In its third year, the Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund at Frieze continues to gain momentum and significance, with these acquisitions for a landmark new museum. Frieze is proud to help contribute towards the UK’s exceptional cultural landscape, and to support two of today’s most forward-thinking artists in the founding of a new public collection for all to enjoy.”

Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools) is being shown in the viewing room at Stephen Friedman Gallery (Stand C9) and Zadie Xa’s works are on display at Union Pacific (Stand H1) for the duration of the fair.