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A New Phenomenon in The Familiar Urban- Portico by Steve Messam

Thursday 23rd June 2022 Picture Credit Charlotte Graham Picture Shows A striking artwork has transformed the front of York Art Gallery as part of the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022 exhibition. Portico by Steve Messam is one of the shortlisted works displayed at York Art Gallery from Friday 24 June. The temporary, eye-catching installation, exploits colour and scale, creating a moment of interruption in the familiar. Steve Messam is an environmental artist, based in the North East of England, and his pieces have previously been displayed at the National Trust’s Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, in Ripon. Messam’s bold and large-scale installations uncover layers of narrative within the landscape, drawing on existing uses of the land and architecture, reflecting an understanding of the geological, cultural and agricultural practices used to shape it. York Museums Trust is urging people to share their photos of Portico by Steve Messam, by tagging York Art Gallery and Aesthetica Magazine on Instagram and Twitter. The Aesthetica Art Prize is an annual celebration of contemporary art. The 2022 exhibition, which brings together this year’s talented finalists at York Art Gallery, invites audiences to explore, discover and engage with themes from our rapidly changing world. The exhibition is free to see. This year’s 20 finalists come from myriad countries – Argentina, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the UK and USA. Their works span painting and drawing; photography and digital art; three-dimensional design and sculpture; installation, performance and video art. Portico artist Steve Messam, said; “Portico changes the way people look at York Art Gallery, temporarily transforming the front of the building and the way people use the space. You can see it from the city walls, the open top buses and you can come sit and have your lunch outside and enjoy it too. I love how many people have been stopping to take photos already.” Cherie Federico, Curator and Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, said; “As a curator, installing Steve Messam's Portico is truly inspirational. The marriage between the historic and contemporary creates a feeling of surprise, awe, and contemplation. You start look at the building with fresh eyes and the gallery is transformed. Portico is a surprise and makes you feel good. The bold colour and spikes ignite the imagination.” Morgan Feely, Senior Curator at York Art Gallery, said; “It’s a pleasure to host the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022 at York Art Gallery. I hope people will be inspired by the transformation of the exterior of the gallery and come in to see the full stunning exhibition, which is free to see. This year’s Aesthetica Art Prize runs alongside our exhibition ‘Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics & Contemporary Art’. Together, these show our commitment to celebrating new art at York Art Gallery.” The Aesthetica Art Prize 2022 runs alongside Body Vessel Clay at York Art Gallery from Friday 24 June until Sunday 18 September 2022. The exhibition is free entry, along with York Art Gallery’s permanent collections. York Art Gallery is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm. -ends- Notes to journalists & editors – A timelapse video is available to download and use here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lMPnmLBL5-FiVdtANrPiBaUKkWaEYRCa/view?usp=sharing Please credit - ‘Portico by Steve Messam. Courtesy of York Museums Trust.’ If posted on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, please tag York Art Gallery. For more information and interviews, contact; Alice Bentley, Marketing & Communications Manager – alice.bentley@ymt.org.uk Sarah Steel, Marketing & Communications Officer – sarah.steel@ymt.org.uk Interviews with artist Steve Messam and Cherie Frederico can be arranged through York Museums Trust. York Art Gallery Opening Times: Wednesday – Sunday 11am-5pm York Art Gallery’s collection of paintings spans more than 600 years and works range from 14th century Italian panels and 17th century Dutch masterpieces to Victorian narrative paintings and 20th century works by LS Lowry and David Hockney. The Gallery also holds the most extensive and representative collection of British Studio Ceramics, thanks to the acquisition of collections from Dean Milner–White, WA Ismay and Henry Rothschild and the recent long-term loan of Anthony Shaw’s collection. Highlights are on show in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA). The Gallery and its collections are cared for by the charity York Museums Trust, established in 2002. For more information visit www.yorkartgallery.org.uk Steve Messam Steve Messam is an environmental artist based in County Durham, UK and working internationally. His ephemeral site-specific installations re-imagine the everyday, interrupting historical landscapes and vacant architecture to help us perceive the familiar environment in a new way. Messam’s works seek to explore and uncover the layers of narrative within the rural environment, frequently drawing on existing uses of the land and reflecting an understanding of the geological, cultural and agricultural practices already being used to shape the landscape. From working with farmers to re-imagining vernacular architecture, his ephemeral, site-specific art installations uncover hidden stories and help a deeper understanding of place. Working on a scale that is typically ‘bigger than a house’, his works explore the colour and scale of place. His inflatable textile works include a suite of pieces that filled historic ruins in a Scottish castle gardens and wrapped a seating shelter in Blackpool. Other works include ‘PaperBridge’ (2015) - a functioning packhorse bridge made from 22,000 sheets of paper in the Lake District; and ‘Hush’ (2019) - a lead-mining scar in the North Pennines landscape filled with over five kilometres of saffron-yellow fabric. He created the first off-site installation at the 2006 Shanghai Biennial and created a number of site specific installations across the Venetian Lagoon during the 2009 Venice Biennale. In 2021 he was awarded ‘Visual Artist of the Year’ at the Newcastle Journal Culture Awards. Aesthetica Art Prize The Prize is a celebration of emerging and established artists from across the world, inviting audiences to be inspired by a wealth of ideas and perspectives. The £10,000 award celebrates contemporary art in all its forms, offering opportunities for publication and exhibition at a major public gallery. Entries are open until 31 August. To find out more, click here. The Art Prize is hosted Aesthetica Magazine: www.aestheticamagazine.com. The 2022 Aesthetica Art Prize Judging Panel is: Ameena M. McConnell, Independent Curator Publisher & Researcher; Cherie Federico, Co-founder & Managing Director, Aesthetica; Damon Jackson-Waldock, Programme Director, The Art House Wakefield; Drew Sawyer, Photography Curator, Brooklyn Museum; Eliza Williams, Editor Creative Review; Izabela Radwanska Zhang, Editor, British Journal of Photography; Holly Trusted, Senior Honorary Research Fellow, V&A; Juliana Kasumu, Artist, Aesthetica Art Prize Winner; Kyung An, Associate Curator, Asian Art, Guggenheim Museum; Sarah Allen, Head of Programme, South London Gallery; Skinder Hundal, Director of Arts, British Council; Touria El Glaoui, Founding Director, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fairs.

A large-scale artwork on the front of the York Art Gallery catches the attention of locals and tourists. Steve Messam’s art installation changes the familiar urban landscape and invites viewers to contemplate the piece’s meaning.

As part of the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022, hosted by York Art Gallery, environmental artist Steve Messam presents the latest of his signature installations. Messam, based in County Durham, usually works with a scale that is; according to him ‘bigger than a house’.  

The artist contemplated the importance of his artwork when he commented:

“Portico changes the way people look at York Art Gallery, temporarily transforming the front of the building and the way people use the space. You can see it from the city walls, the open top buses and you can come sit and have your lunch outside and enjoy it too. I love how many people have been stopping to take photos already.”

Portico by Steve Messam
Courtesy of York Museums Trust.

Messam’s ephemeral site-specific installations have been displayed in the Lake District (PaperBridge, 2015), in the North Pennines Landscape (Hush, 2019), and recently in a comprehensive exhibition called ‘These Passing Things’ at Studley Royal water garden. The bright, bold-coloured pieces explore and uncover the layers of narrative within the rural and in the case of Portico, the urban landscape.

Hosted by the York Art Gallery, The Aesthetica Art Prize is a selection of the most striking artworks made by the next generation of creators. The art prize was introduced in 2007, five years after the launch of the Aesthetica Magazine. It supports up-and-coming artists working with various media and touching on the most relevant topics of our time.

The show at the York Art Gallery includes 20 artists from various origins, such as Argentina, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the UK and the US.

Cherie Federico, Curator and Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, said: “As a curator, installing Steve Messam’s Portico is truly inspirational. The marriage between the historic and contemporary creates a feeling of surprise, awe, and contemplation. You start to look at the building with fresh eyes and the gallery is transformed. Portico is a surprise and makes you feel good. The bold colour and spikes ignite the imagination.”

Morgan Feely, Senior Curator at York Art Gallery, said; “It’s a pleasure to host the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022 at York Art Gallery. I hope people will be inspired by the transformation of the exterior of the gallery and come in to see the full stunning exhibition, which is free to see. This year’s Aesthetica Art Prize runs alongside our exhibition ‘Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics & Contemporary Art’. Together, these show our commitment to celebrating new art at York Art Gallery.”

The artwork was installed on 24 June and will be exhibited until 18 September.

A time-lapse video of the artwork being installed is available to watch here.

York Museum Trust is encouraging people to share their pictures of the artwork by tagging York Art Gallery, Aesthetica Magazine, Instagram and Twitter.

The Aesthetica Art Prize show comes alongside Body Vessel Clay at York Art Gallery from Friday 24 June until Sunday 18 September 2022. The exhibition is free, along with York Art Gallery’s permanent collections. 

York Art Gallery is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.

Written by Fruzsina Vida