The Bluecoat: Archiving the Arts Centre

22 April – 5 May

Daily 10.00 – 18.00


For two weeks the Bluecoat is turning its galleries into an archive space to reveal its century-long history as an arts centre.

From Picasso and Matisse in 1911 to Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey in 2013, the display tells a fascinating and colourful story through images, sounds and documents from past exhibitions, performances and other events.

The display will reflect curatorial developments and highlight key projects, and the changes that have taken place to the physical spaces at the Bluecoat.

Archiving the Arts Centre will not provide a comprehensive account of the art centre’s history, but rather will dip into its archive to show an eclectic mix of material and artists such as Captain Beefheart, Julia Carter Preston, Jeremy Deller, George Melly, Yoko Ono, Sun Ra, South Atlantic Souvenirs, Herbert Tyson Smith, that will be of interest both to regular visitors and to those for whom the Bluecoat is a new experience.

Artistic Director Bryan Biggs, who is selecting the exhibition, said, ‘It has been fascinating trawling through material relating to around 500 exhibitions and events – and that does not include long periods such as the inter-war years when we have very little in the way of records – to see the changes in artistic policies and tastes reflected through our programmes.  We are inviting the public to share with us their memories of the venue’s life as an arts centre, not just to fill some of those gaps, but to create their own archive of the Bluecoat’.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of talks and discussions exploring this history and asking how archives can be used creatively.