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Future Collect

Talk Ira Aldridge Study Day Jade Montserrat

27 May 2021
  • Venue


  • Date

    Thursday 27 May

  • Time

    10am - 4pm

  • Admission

    Free, booking required

  • Artists

    Jade de Montserrat

Our second Future Collect Study Day emanating from artist Jade Montserrat’s research and thinking around her new commission, centres on the figure of Ira Aldridge.

Montserrat is in the process of creating a series of works encompassing performance, works on paper and a publication, which explore questions of care in relation to both objects and people and engage with the context of Manchester Art Gallery, its collection and collecting practices. A key starting point for her research was the first work acquired by Manchester Art Gallery, James Northcote’s painting of the African American actor Ira Aldridge, Othello, The Moor of Venice (1826). Extending from her interest in Aldridge, Montserrat’s Future Collect project aims to make space for African diasporan legacies in parallel with stories related to ‘Cottonopolis’, the name given to Manchester, the metropolitan centre of the Industrial Revolution.

This study day invites artists, curators and academics to be in conversation and address a range of questions around portraiture, representation, subjecthood and agency with the aim of bringing us closer to Ira Aldridge, the person and the portrait. We will explore the history of the painting by James Northcote, the historical context in which it was made and acquired, as well as the context in which it currently exists within Manchester Art Gallery’s collection. There will be discussion around how museums display, handle and care for works with uncomfortable histories, while Aldridge will be discussed as a figure of resistance, leading us to consider how his portrait can be read in positive, hopeful and speculative ways. Through Monsterrat’s commission we will also explore how contemporary artists create relationships with historical works in collections and open up new ways of responding to them.


Alan Rice is Professor in English and American Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, co-director of the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR) and director of the UCLan Lancashire Research Centre in Migration, Diaspora and Exile (MIDEX).  He has worked on the interdisciplinary study of the Black Atlantic publishing Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic (2003) & Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (2010). Over the years he has secured grants from the AHRC, British Academy, Leverhulme Foundation, Stuart Hall Foundation and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship EU programme. He was a founder member of the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project in Lancaster which was responsible for unveiling a memorial commemorating victims of the slave trade in 2005, co-curated Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery at the Whitworth Gallery Manchester in 2007 and has been consultant and talking head on a variety of documentaries with the BBC and other broadcasters. He has given keynote presentations in Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, the United States, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and France. His articles have appeared in a wide range of journals including, Slavery and Abolition, Atlantic Studies, Patterns of Prejudice, Journal of American Studies Zeitschrift fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik and Research in African Literatures. He has organised multiple conferences and symposium on many aspects of the Black Atlantic here and abroad. His latest co-written work, Inside the Invisible: Memorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid (2019) is the first academic monograph on the 2017 Turner Prize Winner. In 2020-21 he is curating the exhibition Lubaina Himid: Memorial to Zong for the Lancaster Maritime Museum and working on projects with Preston Black History Group, Fashion Revolution Week, Lancaster Jazz Festival, Manchester Lit and Phil and as a founder member of the Lancaster Black History Group. He has been delivering Slave Trade trails in his home city of Lancaster since 2000, creating in 2020 an updated printed trail with enhanced information on black agency and abolition, and is at present working with film makers to realise a project to tell the story of the Battle of Bamber Bridge (1943), where African American GI’s led a rebellion against the American army’s Jim Crow practices and racism on the streets of a Lancashire town supported by many of the residents, based on his 2018 article on the mutiny in The Conversation which has attracted over 250,000 unique views. 

Jade Montserrat is a research-led artist and writer who studied the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art and Drawing (2003) and at Norwich University of the Arts (2010). Montserrat works at the intersection of art and activism through drawing, painting, performance, film, installation, sculpture, print and text. The artist interrogates these mediums with the aim to expose gaps in our visual and linguistic habits. Jade is the recipient of the Stuart Hall Foundation Scholarship which supports her PhD (via MPhil) at The Institute for Black Atlantic Research, University of Central Lancashire, (Race and Representation in Northern Britain in the context of the Black Atlantic: A Creative Practice Project) and the development of her work from her black diasporic perspective in the North of England. She was also awarded one of two Jerwood Student Drawing Prizes in 2017 for ‘No Need for Clothing’, a documentary photograph of a drawing installation at Cooper Gallery DJCAD by Jacquetta Clark. Jade’s ‘Rainbow Tribe’ project – a combination of historical and contemporary manifestations of Black Culture from the perspective of the Black Diaspora is central to the ways she is producing a body of work, including ‘No Need For Clothing’ and its iterations, as well as her performance work ‘Revue.’ Jade was commissioned to present Revue as a 24 hour live performance at SPILL Festival of Performance, (2018), a solo exhibition at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, (2019) and was commissioned by Art on the Underground to create the 2018 Winter Night Tube cover. 

Kate Jesson is Curator: Modern and Contemporary Art at Manchester Art Gallery. She uses the public collections as a resource to ask questions of identity and Britishness. Past collection displays include Between the Wars (2013), Absent Presence (2015), House Proud (2015), Goodbye to All That (2016) and To be Human (2016). Her contemporary exhibitions include solo presentations by Haroon Mirza (2012), Ryan Gander (2014), and Pat Flynn (2015). Speech Acts (2018-2019), co-curated with Hammad Nasar as an outcome of Black Artists and Modernism (2016-2018). Tania Bruguera’s School of Integration was co-curated with Shanaz Guzar as part of the Manchester International Festival (2019) and is ongoing. 2020 saw the co-curation of a new What is Manchester Art Gallery? introductory display exploring the purpose of our public collections today. It also marked the start of a new partnership with iniva to reimagine the future of collecting. Kate Jesson is also a Trustee of Castlefield Gallery. 

Nikita Gill is a creative and curator in training with the International Institute of Visual Arts (iniva) and Manchester Art Gallery. She received her MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from the University of Manchester in 2019. Her previous work includes support of the production of Excavating the Reno (2017 – 2018), Portraits of Recovery with David Hoyle and Mark Prest (2017), Bodies of Colour (2018) and Joy Forever (2019) at the Whitworth art gallery. Her research focus is decolonial practice centred on care within the context of art gallery collections. Currently Nikita is working on Future Collect, supporting Jade Montserrat’s commission by INIVA (2020). Nikita Gill is also a member of the Black Curators Collective. 

Sandy Nairne is a writer and curator based in London, and until 2015 was Director of the National Portrait Gallery. He has previously worked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Arts Council and as one of two deputy directors at Tate. 

His publications include State of the Art, 1987, the anthology Thinking about Exhibitions, 1996, and more recently The 21st Century Portrait and Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners, 2011, and The Coincidence of Novembers, 2020 

He is currently Chair of the Fabric Advisory Committee at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Maggie’s Art Group for Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres. He is a Trustee of the Courtauld Collection, and the National Trust, and a member of the Bank of England Banknote Character Advisory Committee.