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Hew Locke exhibition coming to British Museum in October 2024

Artist Hew Locke is to co-curate a major exhibition on the colonial history of the British Museum’s collections this autumn.

Opening in October 2024, the as-yet–untitled show will see some of the museum’s most well-known objects displayed alongside specially commissioned new works by Locke.

Seen side-by-side, the dialogue between the exhibits will explore how the museum’s collection reflects the legacies of British imperial power.

Locke is a renowned Guyanese-British artist and he’s been working on this show over the past two years. He's not only been visiting the museum in London, but has been viewing objects in the stores and study rooms, and has been speaking with specialist curators.

He’s also used the British Museum’s online collection database, to search for objects that spoke to the themes and concerns of Locke’s artistic practice.

Portrait photograph of Hew Locke with plain background
Hew Locke photographed by John McKenzie © 2023 Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

But Locke has said his connection to the institution goes back many decades earlier. On announcing this new exhibition, he said “I have been visiting the British Museum’s collections for 40 years, and this project has enabled me to engage with them in a much deeper way than ever before.”

He said his show would ask many questions of museums and the stories they tell, such as “what story has been chosen and is being told or implied about the past?”

Locke said that in interrogating these narratives he would be bringing visitors “beautiful objects with awkward histories.”

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His show will specifically focus on Britain’s historic interactions with Africa, India and the Caribbean, and therefore will highlight the relevant objects in the collection that are closely linked to the British Empire.

These histories all had an impact on Guyana where Locke grew up, and so the London exhibition will be his personal exploration — and reframing — of the collection’s historical items.

Mark Jones, the Interim Director of the British Museum, said this would be a “landmark exhibition” for the institution, and that it would “create constructive debate and conversation about the history of the British Museum’s collection… in a way we have never done before."

The glass roof of the British Museum and a round building at its centre
The Great Court at the British Museum

Co-curator Isabel Seligman said it would be a “space where dialogue and differing views are welcome.”

Hew Locke exhibition tickets

As yet tickets for Locke’s British Museum exhibition are not on sale — and we don’t know when they will be. That also means we don’t know the price, but we can be fairly certain that British Museum members will get in free like usual.

And we can be fairly certain too that it will be an impactful show. Locke’s most recent major museum show in the UK was Tate Britain’s hugely well-acclaimed — and hugely striking — installation The Procession.

This new exhibition is one half of an exciting autumn programme at the British Museum. The show running alongside it will be a Silk Road exhibition which promises to be an equally fascinating dive into history but from a very different part of the world.

Hew Locke (title tbc) runs at the British Museum from 17 October 2024 until 9 February 2025


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