John Akomfrah’s exhibition at Arnolfini nominated for South Bank Sky Arts Award 2017

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015. Installation view at Arnolfini. Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound. 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Stuart Whipps

Arnolfini, Bristol.

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards are the only awards in the world that focus on the arts in their entirety, honouring the very best of British culture and achievement from opera to pop; film to the theatre. Arnolfini’s exhibition of John Akomfrah’s acclaimed video installation Vertigo Sea, has been nominated in the hotly contested ‘Visual Arts’ category.

Also nominated are Artangel for Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison and George Shaw’s exhibition, My Back to Nature, at the National Gallery. The winner will be announced on Sunday 9 July at The Savoy, London at a ceremony presented by Lord Melvyn Bragg.

Arnolfini, Bristol, hosted the UK premier of Vertigo Sea from 16 January – 2 March 2016. In that time the exhibition was seen by nearly 40,000 visitors. The work is now showing across the UK, as a result of an award to Arnolfini to lead a national tour with financial support from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund. This has so far enabled another 120,000 people to experience the work.

The three-screen film, first seen at the 56th Venice Biennale as part of Okwui Enwezor’s All the World’s Futures exhibition, is a sensual, poetic and cohesive meditation on man’s relationship with the sea and exploration of its role in the history of slavery, migration, and conflict. Fusing archival material, readings from classical sources, and newly shot footage, the work explicitly highlights the greed, horror and cruelty of the whaling industry.

This material is then juxtaposed with shots of African migrants crossing the ocean in a journey fraught with danger in hope of a better life and thus delivering a timely and potent reminder of the current issues around global migration, the refugee crisis, slavery, alongside ecological concerns.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye won the 2016 South Bank Sky Arts Award Visual Arts category for her exhibition Verses After Dusk at the Serpentine Galleries ahead of Cornelia Parker’s British Library exhibition Magna Carta (An Embroidery) and Banksy’s Dismaland.

About Vertigo Sea and the UK tour

John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea was produced by Smoking Dogs Films with the support of Blidmuseet Umea and BAC-Baltic Art Centre, the Swedish Arts Council, Sharjah Art Foundation, BBC Natural History Unit, British Film Institute, Arts Council England and Tyneside Cinema Gallery.

The work is currently touring in the UK with financial support awarded to Arnolfini through Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund.

The exhibition has been presented at The Exchange, Penzance (30/4/16 – 25/6/16), Turner Contemporary, Margate (8/10/16 – 9/1/17) and is currently on show at The Whitworth, Manchester (24/3/17 – 23/7/17). The final venue for the tour will be Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (21/10/17 – 27/1/18).

The presentation of Vertigo Sea has been supported by Arts Council England and Lisson Gallery.