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Grand NationalArt from Britain


Curated by Charles Danby

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Britain’s most famous horse race, but instead of lavishing attention on the winner, this exhibition focused on the breadth of the field. It was the plucky ‘also-rans’ among the YBA that Vestfossen’s public could acquaint itself with.

YBA, or Young British Artists, was the title given to a whole generation that injected new vitality into British art in the 1990s. Some of their works came to Norway and Vestfossen to be included in Grand National. Curator Charles Danby chose, however, not to include in his selection the most prominent among these artistic rebels, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

The premise for the exhibition was the tough political climate in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s. With works that stretched back to the 1920s, Grand National was able to place the art in its historic perspective. It also included several significant films, including Jeremy Deller’s film about the miners’ strike in 1984, The Battle of Orgreave, and Isaac Julien’s film about the Notting Hill Carnival. Paul Graham’s photographs from various Social Security and Unemployment Offices in the mid-1980s reinforced the sombre mood of the exhibition. But this visually captivating exhibition did also have flashes of humour and pleasure.

Excerpt from curator Charles Danby’s text for the catalogue:

"Grand National as a title may read in a number of ways. To a British audience it would not readily infer an imperialist stance, as perhaps it might within an international arena, nor would it implicate pomp. Instead it has common language use, "grand" is an everyday equivalent to the word great, as in Great National or Great Britain; Again to British ears nation infers the collected sited of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern-Ireland. The word "grand" also matches to the slang of something that is "good". As such, and placed in front of the word national, it has a self-effacing edge through the opposition it infers, good national / bad national, an underscore of irony and black humour that touches on a sense of Britishness." (p. 11)

Participating artists

  • Annie Attridge
  • BANK
  • Glenn Brown
  • Lynn Chadwick
  • Spartacus Chetwynd
  • Marcus Coates
  • Keith Coventry
  • Shezad Dawood
  • Jeremy Deller
  • Jack Duplock
  • Angus Fairhurst
  • Saul Fletcher
  • Gwen John
  • Paul Graham
  • Douglas Gordon
  • Dryden Goodwin
  • Isaac Julien
  • Derek Jarman
  • Emma Kay
  • Matt Appleton & Chris Bianchi at Le Gun
  • Andrew Mania
  • Alastair MacKinven
  • Cornelia Parker
  • Mark Wallinger