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Refuge and Renewal: Migration and British Art

14 December 2019 - 1 March 2020

Heinz Koppel (1919-1980), Sari, 1959. Tempera and oil on canvas, 153x102cm, private collection

Royal West of England Academy

This major touring exhibition, curated by Dr Peter Wakelin, is a timely exploration of the impact of artist refugees on art in Britain, taking a perspective across the last 150 years.

The migration of creative individuals and groups has always been a source of innovation and cultural cross-fertilisation. This exhibition’s main focus is the crucial influence of émigrés who came from eastern and central Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. It explores how they were perceived by their peers in Britain and the extent to which their influence excited or inspired new art.

Exhibited artists include Joan Eardley, Naum Gabo, Humberto Gatica-Leyton, Mona Hatoum, Barbara Hepworth, Josef Herman, Samira Kitman, Josef Koudelka, Hanaa Malallah, Ben Nicholson, Camille Pissarro, Zory Shahrokhi, Kurt Schwitters and Walid Siti. It looks back to the temporary exile of refugees from the First World War and forward to the present, when the reception of refugees and their contributions to British life are more contentious than ever.

Many of the artists present extraordinary and deeply moving stories of escape from dispossession, persecution, torture, intellectual oppression and war. The welcome for foreign artists has not always been positive and has included critical hostility, financial difficulties, personal tragedy and even internment, yet they have often exerted a remarkably direct influence on British contemporaries.

A substantial book by Peter Wakelin, published by Sansom & Co. will accompany the exhibition.


14 December 2019
1 March 2020
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Royal West of England Academy
Queens Road
Bristol, BS8 1PX United Kingdom
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Dr Peter Wakelin