Brent 2020: First ever Brent Biennial launches with art projects borough-wide for people to enjoy
PUBLISHED: 18:38 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:17 21 September 2020
Billboards, interactive sculptures, a mural to an iconic star and a memorial for Covid victims in the borough are among the visual art displays launching the first Brent Biennial.
The public can enjoy 23 new artist commissions across Brent in public spaces, libraries, streets and online from September 19 to December 13 as part of the Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture.
Local and international artists have explored Brent’s history, cultures and people through sculpture, installation, murals, film, performance and activities.
Brent 2020 artistic director Lois Stonock said: “It’s been an absolute joy working with all the libraries. This project was supposed to launch in April and be the first project after Rise (the launch event in January) but a month before we went into lockdown the whole thing had to stop.”
She added: “Because we had more time, the one positive thing to come out of lockdown was being able to build the biennial.”
All visual art projects across the whole programme, which includes 10 library commissions, eight culture fund projects and works commissioned by the Art Fund, were brought together by communicating online.
“The biennial was the result of us pulling together and looking at all the visual programmes across the year,” Lois added. “Now we have that platform, with internationally-known artists next to young artists who have just come through the Brent culture fund. It’s not necessarily your typical line up, it’s really democratising.”
Dawn Mellor has created a colourful nine-metre high mural called George Michael TV Outside in tribute to the pop icon who grew up and went to school in Kingsbury.
It was co-commissioned by Studio Voltaire and Create London with Brent 2020.
Rasheed Araeen, who is based in Cricklewood, started First Text magazine, the first magazine on arts in Europe that was documenting non-western voices.
These magazines and interactive sculptures are at Willesden Library, High Road.
Abbas Zahedi, who helped establish Sufra foodbank and Rumi’s cave, has created a Soul Refresher, Mountain Rose soda.
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“Abbas is interested in having conversations around community so that’s why he made a drink, that’s how you have a conversation about community - you don’t go to an art gallery and have it there,” said Lois.
The drink is being given out for free from Sufra foodbank and available to buy in some local venues, including Ariana II in Kilburn High Road.
Additionally, Yasmin Nicholas is a young artist from Harlesden whose work is on billboards.
Ruth Beale worked with libraries to select 491 books, one for every person who had died from Covid at the beginning of September, which each have a book plate within them for people to write a dedication to a person they lost.
In Loving Memory is at Kilburn Library in Salusbury Road and includes “everything from Danielle Steele to Hanif Kureishi” and there is also a short film the artist made with young people from Brent Youth Parliament.
“The project was initially supposed to be celebrating our libraries as think tanks and public spaces, what they are and how they function, then coronavirus came along,” she said. “I wanted to respond to that and what function a library can serve in that situation, and the library becomes a memorial.”
The London Borough of Culture project was set up by Sadiq Khan in 2017 to shine a light on the character and diversity of the city’s boroughs.
Justin Simons, deputy mayor for culture, said: “Covid dramatically impacted the whole creative and artistic sector in London but what Brent has brilliantly done is responded with great imagination and creativity and pivoted the programme into this fantastic first ever Brent Biennial which is just opening now.
“It’s still got all the values and ethos and ambition of the programme that we thought we were going to see at the beginning of the year but re-imagined a different way.”
Cllr Krupesh Hirani, Labour GLA candidate for Brent & Harrow, and Brent’s former culture chief, said he was “delighted”. “Artists have been talking to a lot of people in the local community and making sure that it’s incorporated in the art work.
“Most of the projects are still going ahead but not the Kilburn Street Party or Wembley gig as thousands of people would attend and we’re still under Covid restrictions.
“But with the GLA, the Arts Council and the libraries, we’ve set a standard that we will build on to continue our arts legacy.”
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