The boxing ring provides a unique and extraordinary accommodation; it presents proscribed behaviour, fighting as public spectacle, and has the capacity to transform the marginalized and the dispriveleged into national hero’s. Working class men, within an agenda set by another class, physically and mentally trained to the limits of endurance, pursue a victory that leaves them scarred, bloodied and exhausted but euphoric and exultant. This project was not about boxing per se, nor does it participate in the frequently rehearsed debate about the safety of the sport or it’s banning. It was seeking to stimulate the discussion and debate about other aspects of the sport’s remarkable position in contemporary culture.
The exhibition ‘Boxer’ curated by John Gill was organised by Walsall Museum and Art Gallery in association with the Institute of International Visual Arts, shown from 29 July – 10 September 1995. This exhibition of newly commissioned and loaned work by contemporary artists, whose use of the image of the boxer provided an opportunity to consider the role of the male body as a focus for debates about race, eroticism, class and masculinity. Therefore this exhibition was not so much about boxing, it was about the boxer himself. Using photography, installation or video, the artists represented created work which gives the viewer a space to contemplate attitudes and prejudices, understandings and imaginings, about the perfectible body, about the corporal victory, about race and suppositions of strength and danger, and about sentimentalised violence. Participating artists were The Douglas Brothers, Andrew Heard, Glenn Ligon, Kurt Marcus, Ming de Nasty; Jane Mulfinger and Graham Budgett, Keith Piper, Ingrid Pollard, Bruce Weber.