Manchester Art Gallery have acquired two exciting works by Hetain Patel. These will both be on show in the gallery on the 7 February 2023. This new display ‘What’s New? Collecting for Manchester’ showcases new contemporary and historic works which haven’t been on show.
Hetain Patel employs humour and the tropes of popular culture in his work as a performer and visual artist. He explores the formation of identity through language and physical movement, challenging assumptions of how we look or where we come from. As a child, Patel escaped from the racism he experienced into the world of superheros.
In the video, To Dance like your Dad, 2009, Patel imitates his father speaking about his work. Patel originally captured the footage of his father talking about his coach building factory as a trailer to advertise the business. Upon rediscovering the unused footage, he came up with the idea of restaging it with him performing his father’s words, accent, mannerisms and movements in an empty studio. This work speaks of family relationships and expectations, different generational opportunities, inheritance, work and labour, and the loss of industry and skills. The film led to further collaborations with his father and was also a turning point in terms of how Patel featured his family in his work – not as a representation of something that might be deemed ‘exotic’ by a Western gaze but as enriching familial relationships relatable to everyone.
In Baa’s House I, Patel turns the idea of a family photograph on its head. Squatting on a chair next to his seated grandmother, an adult Patel takes on the guise of Spider-Man. He was drawn to Spider-Man as a child, and the way the costume covers the wearer’s identity. The artist was born in his grandmother’s house in Bolton and they pose together in the living-room in front of 40 years of family portraits. Whilst this unexpected juxtaposition is initially humorous, underneath is a serious demand for freedom from stereotyping.
Manchester Art Gallery has wanted to acquire work by Patel since his hugely popular 2017 solo exhibition at the Gallery because his work connects and speaks to people of multiple generations and cultural backgrounds. These two works, both made in Bolton, have strong local relevance and connection to the histories and lives of people in Greater Manchester.
Hetain Patel (b. Bolton, UK, 1980) lives and works in London. Solo exhibitions include Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai (2022); Copperfield, London, and John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (both 2021). Group exhibitions include British Art Show 9, Manchester Art Gallery; The Box, Plymouth and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2021–22); The Whitechapel Gallery (2022); The Asia Society Triennial, New York (2021); Bow Arts, London (2020); Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Somerset House, London and the Devi Art Foundation, Delhi (all 2019). He won the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award (2021) and Best International Film at Kino Der Kunst, Munich (2020).
Curatorial Trainee at Contemporary Art Society