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Unique exhibition from Birmingham-based artist Vanley Burke opens at Ikon
Vanley Burke, Young girls sitting on wall, 1991, Photograph, Courtesy the artist and Ikon.


BIRMINGHAAM.- Ikon presents At Home with Vanley Burke, a unique exhibition from Birmingham-based artist Vanley Burke. The project sees the entire contents of Burke’s flat in Nechells, north-east Birmingham, transported to Ikon’s main exhibition space.

Referred to as the "Godfather of Black British photography", Burke (b. Jamaica, 1951) is also a dedicated archivist and collector of objects relating to black culture in Britain. His flat’s distinctive interior is an embodiment of his compulsive acquisitiveness. Displaying a vast collection of printed material - posters, flyers, publications - clothes, records, ornaments and countless other items, it provides an invaluable insight into Britain’s African Caribbean communities. The countless objects that fill Burke’s space, serve as a portrait of religious and political beliefs, artistic activities, fashions, leisure pursuits, food, health issues and many other aspects of everyday life. This exhibition reveals Burke too as a subject of his own enquiry.

Burke's collection stands as one of the most significant bodies of material in the city of Birmingham’s Archives, and exists in part within the Library of Birmingham; the majority, however, remain in his flat near the city centre. From 22 July to 27 September these items are on public exhibition at Ikon, revealing a shared human experience and community identity that has long been hidden from view.

Burke’s extraordinary career as an artist has carried him from capturing the streets of Handsworth, Birmingham during the disturbances of the 1980s to recording black life at the end of apartheid in South Africa. Arriving in Britain in 1965, Burke has documented the experience of black people in the UK for over 45 years, producing what is regarded to be the greatest photographic record of African Caribbean people in post-war Britain.

Commenting on the project, Vanley Burke explained: “This flat is many things, it’s an archive, it’s a gallery, it’s my home, it’s where I collect a part of our history. History is part of a lived experience… it’s those objects which might look so insignificant, so kitsch, but to a lot of people it contains so much information about how their parents lived.”

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition – illustrated by the artist – alongside texts by Peter James, Curator of Photographs at Library of Birmingham, and artist Marlene Smith. At Home with Vanley Burke is supported by funds raised through Art Happens, the Art Fund’s crowd-funding platform, and the Mill Dam Trust.





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