New acquisitions by the Laing Art Gallery

08 July 2020

The Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund supports new acquisitions by the Laing Art Gallery

The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle has acquired three works by London-based artist Mike Silva, as part of the second round of acquisitions through the CAS Rapid Response Fund following a crowdfunding campaign that has raised total donations to over £234,000. Over £90,000 has been spent in this round, supporting six artists and six museums around the UK. 

Mike Silva's portrait subjects are invariably friends and lovers. He works from his own photographs, sometimes going back to images taken many years before: “Memory and longing is something we project onto an image. The photographic image is rooted in the time and place that it was taken – it is fixed to that specific moment. Whereas a painting can appear to always seem in the present, because it’s been divorced from the exact point in time it originally refers to; it has a more universal quality." 

Silva approaches portraiture and the depiction of domestic interiors with the same quality of intimacy and tenderness, capturing the textures of daily life. His portraits of black men are a reflection of his life in London, meditations on masculinity and the passage of time. 

Through the Rapid Response Fund the CAS has acquired three paintings – two still lifes and a portrait – for the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle that reflect the spectrum of Silva’s practice.

Julie Milne, Chief Curator of Art Galleries, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: "We are delighted to be acquiring works by Mike Silva, who is a brilliant painter of people and still lives, strengthening yet further the Laing Art Gallery's outstanding collection of work by British painters. 

"We are in the process of rehanging our permanent collection, ensuring there are pictures on the walls representative of people of all backgrounds and as a trusted public institution we are committed to addressing the kind of erasures, omissions and incomplete narratives that are inherent in many public collections of British art. The new acquisition will further open up conversations about identity and representation, collections and curation. 

"Silva has spoken of his personal experience: 'I’ve always grown up being aware of otherness. The mixed-race experience is a very strange one, I almost feeling like I’m floating between identities […] of feeling simultaneously very British but also not British at all.' The artist’s words, as well as the vulnerability and tenderness expressed in his artwork, are compelling for visitors and enable us to look at ways of exploring how we further represent the various identities that sit within British identity and present them in a nuanced way."

The CAS Rapid Response Fund, in partnership with Frieze London, is a response to the Covid-19 pandemic to support both artists and museums across the UK. Museums which are members of the Contemporary Art Society are invited to apply to buy art and craft that will support their civic role when they reopen after the lockdown is lifted. 

The fund is designed to support as many different artists and local museums as possible, based on the understanding that our museums will play a vital role in our communities as we exit the crisis. The money raised purchases artworks by British-based artists, providing financial support to artists, technicians and art handlers, many of whom work on a freelance basis and have seen their income streams decimated over recent weeks, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CAS Rapid Response Fund also ensures that when museums reopen, they are able to reach out to their communities through new acquisitions, playing a vital role in civic healing and mental wellbeing.

The fund has raised £234,000, which will support over 20 acquisitions. £109,000 was raised through the generosity of CAS Patrons and a further £125,000 was raised through the CAS’s first crowdfunding campaign, which closed on 10 June 2020. People who donated £35 received a limited-edition facemask designed by top artists – David Shrigley, Eddie Peake, Linder and Yinka Shonibare. £120 bought a pack of all four. 

The Contemporary Art Society’s partnership with Frieze London allows the campaign to reach even more art lovers and collectors, both attendees to the art fairs and readers of the magazines. 

Rapid Response Fund applications are reviewed by the 2020 CAS Acquisitions Advisory Committee, an external panel chaired by Caroline Douglas, Director of the CAS, consisting of leading curators, writers and artists. Further purchases will be announced at the beginning of each month. 

(Image: Mike Silva, Jason in Hyde Park, 2020, Oil on linen 76 x 101 cm courtesy of the artist and The Approach Gallery.) 

Mike Silva, Jason in Hyde Park, 2020, Oil on linen 76 x 101 cm courtesy of the artist and The Approach Gallery
Mike Silva, Jason in Hyde Park, 2020, Oil on linen 76 x 101 cm courtesy of the artist and The Approach Gallery