Celebrated artists Antony Gormley, Gillian Wearing, Jonathan Yeo and Nika Neelova gathered at Somerset House this week to highlight homelessness and raise awareness about the forthcoming Crisis Commission exhibition. Drawing upon themes of the Crisis Commission they recreated Wearing’s most famous work, Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say.
Alongside these artists; Tracey Emin, Sir Anthony Caro, Yinka Shonibare, Bob & Roberta Smith and Nathan Coley, will also be donating individual works to the exhibition which opens at Somerset House on Wednesday 14 March and runs until Sunday 22 April. All the exhibits will be auctioned at Christies on Thursday 3rd May. The cost of creating works to fill a wing of Somerset House are being met by lead sponsor GlaxoSmithKline.
Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis said: “We are thrilled that so many leading contemporary artists are participating in the Crisis Commission. This prestigious event will raise much needed funds for our work and bring a new focus to the worrying current rise in homelessness in society.”
At the photo call launch event this week, the attending artists held signs representing some of the show’s key themes “Isolation, Security, Space” and one of the charity’s chief aims “Homelessness ends here.” A simple but poignant recreation of Wearing’s most famous work “Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say.” A highly salient work given that it referred to the economic decline in Britain in the early 1990s, manifested by statements such as ‘Will Britain get through this recession?’ and the infamous photograph showing a homeless man bearing the statement “I signed on and they would not give me nothing”. The exhibition addresses the toughest issues we face as a society today and is focusing it’s attention to creating social change. There are many debates opening up, on whether art should be austere? This week in the Guardian Jonathan Jones asked “Should art be austere in a recession?” Although perhaps austerity shouldn’t be imposed upon the imagination of an artist creation, I do think it is important to unite and focus our attention to the reach an artwork can have and be sensitive to the times. And it is good to see that these artists are paving the way and being bold, and not only reflecting current times but going beyond this, to promote awareness of the reality of the growing numbers of homelessness and make a difference.
Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life changing services and campaigning for change. Gwyn Miles, Director, Somerset House Trust said “We are very proud to be working in partnership with Crisis again. And we are particularly pleased that such a stellar group of contemporary artists will be displaying their work in the newly restored East Wing Gallery at Somerset House. It is an exciting project and one which we are thrilled to present to the public”.
Antony Gormley said: “The most powerful social sculpture of our times is made by the quiet performances of the homeless within the shelter provided by the entrances to the shops and restaurants of our inner cities. This exhibition allows one to think about those bodies that have no place. I believe that sculpture can powerfully evoke the nameless, the voiceless and the placeless and I am proud to be part of and am inspired by this visionary project.”
Homeless and vulnerably housed clients of Crisis will also have their work exhibited alongside the established artists for the duration of the Crisis Commission. The clients will be drawn from Crisis’ year-round art classes, held at Crisis’ Skylight Centres in London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Merseyside and Oxford. These award winning educational, training and employment centres offer practical and creative workshops to over 3,000 homeless people a year in an inspiring environment together with formal learning opportunities that lead to qualifications and finding work.