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Institute of International Visual Arts

About Iniva

iniva is an evolving visual arts organisation dedicated to nurturing and disseminating radical and emergent contemporary artistic practice centring Global Majority, African, Asian, & Caribbean diaspora perspectives. For 30 years it has been iniva’s mission to be an agent for change in the cultural sector, advocating for social justice through the support of artists and communities as well as via the forms of exchange that advance our desire to understand each other and respect the cultural values that challenge cultural ‘norms’.

iniva was founded in 1994 as a response to political movements of the late 70s and early 80s which called for an urgent redress to the imbalance in the way culturally diverse artists and curators were being represented in the UK. Our founding conference on ‘New Internationalism’ set the tone for an outward looking organisation which has worked predominantly in partnership to question global legacies of imperialism and colonialism, whilst working with local communities of British based artists of Global Majority, African, Asian, & Caribbean descent. 

We offer residencies, commission new work and promote existing artistic practices, enabling artistic ambition. Informal and formal education opportunities are woven into every strand of our programming. We offer emerging and young creatives a space to express their creativity, supporting their wellbeing while developing and nurturing their talent to be shared with the public. By cultivating innovative thinking, and in maintaining a world-class research centre at the Stuart Hall Library, we are committed to disseminating research and ensuring the legacy of diverse artistic practice for future generations.

Our Mission is to nurture, support and develop anti-racist and equitable spaces for artistic research, wellbeing, play, experimentation and enjoyment with creatives and communities.

Our Vision is for a radical transformation of the cultural landscape with creatives and communities. 

Our History

Iniva was founded with significant support from Arts Council England, in response to a growing campaign for Black and Asian artists to be given more prominence and attention by the mainstream visual arts sector. This campaign was born out of the political movements of the late 70s and early 80s which called for greater understanding and acceptance of diversity and difference. This activism became most visible through the artistic work of the Blk Art Group in the early to mid-80s.

As the idea for Iniva developed, it grew to encompass internationalism and the study of global artistic practice; the remit being that Iniva should seek out and champion artists from around the world whose work and ideas would provide new perspectives for Britain’s then predominantly western-centric view of the visual arts. Iniva was launched at a seminal conference at Tate Britain entitled Towards a New Internationalism which explored notions of internationalism, the role of curatorial practice and debated cultural identity and difference.

Iniva played an important role in the early careers of now internationally respected artists

Iniva quickly established a reputation for innovative solo and group exhibitions, working with a broad cross-section of artists and ranging from site-specific work to gallery-based projects. Iniva played an important role in the early careers of now internationally respected artists such as Yinka Shonibare MBE, Steve McQueen, Idris Khan and Sonia Boyce by commissioning work which were considered to be ‘firsts’ for those artists. Other work commissioned by Iniva sits both in public and private collections, the most famous of these is Yinka Shonibare’s much-praised Diary of a Victorian Dandy (1998) for which he received a nomination for the Deutsche Börse (formerly Citibank) Photography prize. We have co-produced over 60 important exhibitions and worked with over 300 partners including The Hayward Gallery, Tate, ICA and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

We are considered to be a pioneering arts organisation having worked with notable and now influential academics, artists, curators and writers including Professor Stuart Hall (Iniva’s founding Chair), Professor Kobena Mercer, Okwui Enwezor, Professor Sonia Boyce, Judith Butler, Keith Piper, Sarat Maharaj, Chris Dercon, Isaac Julien and Baroness Lola Young to name but a few. At the same time Iniva has brought to the public’s attention established international artists who are little known in the UK, such as Henri Dono (Indonesia), Meshac Gaba (Benin) and Sheela Gowda (India) and re-examined previously unknown or half-forgotten art histories such as the Harlem Renaissance in post-war America and a published critique on the work of artists from Latin America. Through its work, Iniva has continued to encourage the study and interrogation of cultural identity and difference, through exhibitions such as Entanglement: the ambivalence of identity (2011), but also previously in exhibitions such as Alien Nation (2007), which explored science-fiction, race and contemporary art and Veil (2003), which addressed the veneration and vilification of the veil in contemporary culture. Over two decades, Iniva developed new models of practice and collaboration based on connecting different people with contemporary art practice and ideas. Iniva was one of the first arts organisations to commission visual artists to produce online work and Iniva’s virtual gallery – the x-space – is one of the most distinctive visual arts sites of its kind.

Publishing has always been an important strand of Iniva’s programme, and our books have an established international reputation. Iniva has published over 50 titles, including exhibition catalogues, artists’ monographs and anthologies of new critical writing, which promote diverse perspectives on modern and contemporary art and advance critical debate internationally. (Our books can be viewed in the Shop section of our website). Iniva also established an award-winning education and research programme. We continue to hold regular talks and symposia, stimulating debate and engaging leading thinkers in a broad range of issues concerned with international arts practice, culture and diversity. Iniva’s unique research facility, the Stuart Hall Library, is a valuable reference resource for students, researchers and all interested readers that provides a critical, theoretical and historical context for artists’ work. It is one of the leading UK libraries in the field of international visual art with a significant collection that focuses on the work of British artists from diverse cultural backgrounds and on contemporary art from Africa, Asia, Latin America.