Coventry’s history of destruction and rebirth make it a fitting host for an exhibition that explores damaged artwork, according to the artist behind it.
Beirut-born artist Ali Cherri, 2021 Artist in Residence at the National Gallery, unveiled If you prick us, do we not bleed?, a collection exploring responses to damaged artwork, to guests at Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.
Inspired by five vandalised National Gallery paintings, the works, a series of mixed media, sculptural installations, consider how histories of trauma can be examined through a response to museum and gallery collections, and how we are never truly the same after experiencing violence.
Marguerite Nugent, recently appointed director at the Herbert Art Gallery, was joined by Christine Riding, Jacob Rothschild Head of the Curatorial Department at the National Gallery, to introduce Cherri and the exhibition, which is on display until January 8.
Cherri said that he felt a strong personal connection with Coventry, with the works also sharing an affinity with the city’s past.
He said: “I’d like to thank the Herbert Art Gallery as it’s been great working with them, the Contemporary Arts Society and the National Gallery and everyone who has supported the project. This has been a once in a lifetime experience.
“The first time I came to Coventry I felt a strong connection to the city, especially with its history of conflict. I was born in Beirut at the start of the civil war.
“It was quite intimidating to be invited to be Artist in Residence at the National Gallery, to be in dialogue with these works and to find something new and interesting to say.
“We cannot unwrite violence. When we are subjected to violence, it changes the essence of who we are. These wounds become part of our story. For art, it also affects something at its core. It’s aura changes.”
Riding added: “We are thrilled to be launching this exhibition in close proximity to Coventry Cathedral, which is symbolic of healing and reconciliation.
“Ali selected a difficult subject, and I think it has ultimately turned out to be a cleansing project to address this theme.
“Artists in Residence only get one year to immerse themselves with our works and their history. As a result of these works and similar projects, the National Gallery is building long lasting relationships with arts venues, including the Herbert Art Gallery.”
The exhibition was opened alongside Brought to Light, whichfeatures highlights from the Herbert’s collection acquired over the last 65 years. It will also be on display to the public until January 8, 2023.
Nugent said: “There is a great buzz and energy around Coventry and it is fitting that these exhibitions have been launched during a time where the city is thinking about its legacy after the City of Culture year.
“I’d like to thank the National Gallery for inviting us to take part in this project. It has been a great pleasure to work with Ali, especially around themes of peace, reconciliation and heritage that also underpin our work here.”
For more information go to www.theherbert.org