I recently visited Hull, a north-eastern seaside town in Yorkshire, and winner of the UK City of Culture 2017 award. It’s the second city to hold the title, and the first in England. Currently taking place is a 365-day programme of cultural events and creativity inspired by the city.
The train station is five minutes from Queen Victoria Square, the city’s centre. In contrast to the historic facades of Hull's Maritime Museum, Ferens Art Gallery, and City Hall sits Blade, a giant installation by multimedia artist Nayan Kulkarni.
A readymade blade from a wind turbine, it’s one of the many installations going up all over town as part of the Look Up series. Hundreds more of these energy-harnessing blades will be produced over the course of the year in Hull’s new Siemens factory.
Ferens Art Gallery
Blade points towards Ferens Art Gallery, which was originally opened in 1927 and houses a large permanent collection from medieval times to today. It’s one of the most important regional galleries in England and recently underwent a £4.5 million renovation. This Autumn it’ll host the Turner Prize.
Currently on is Francis Bacon: Nervous System. Five of his notorious ‘Screaming Pope’ paintings are on display.
Painting is the pattern of one’s own nervous system projected onto canvas.
– Francis Bacon
The Fruit Market
The Fruit Market is a cobblestoned cultural quarter along the waterside. Warehouses, restaurants, mews-style homes, and a new contemporary art gallery, Hummer Street Gallery, are located there.
Hummer Street Gallery
Formerly a fruit and vegetable warehouse, Hummer Street Gallery is now a three-storey contemporary art space. On display through 22 March, the Power in Woman exhibit features three sculptures by internationally renowned artist Sarah Lucas, originally commissioned for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The café on the first floor showcases a local landmark, Dead Bod.
Also on display through 22 March is a retrospective from radical arts collective COUM Transmissions, who came to prominence in Hull in the late 1960s. I met one of the early members, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and we talked about Donald Trump, among other things. Cosey said you can’t throw your middle finger up at what’s going on (that’s what they expect you to do!) You’ve got to understand the system if you want to do anything about it.
From the list:
995. Coum are an orgy
996. Coum are gay
997. Coum flash their tits around
998. Coum have a frightening view of reality
999. Coum is not the mal de siècle it is the mal du monde
1000. And someone always Coums along
1001. A thousand and one ways to COUM
The City Speaks
Meeting artist Michael Pinsky was one of the highlights of my trip. I caught him installing his 21st-century version of a speakers’ corner, and we tested out my American accent. (It worked! I said my name.) A steel lectern picks up your spoken word, Google language software converts it to text, and then you see your thoughts and feelings (or in my case, “Annette”) crawl up Hull’s iconic tidal barrier down the street in a large dot-matrix font. Who knows what people will end up creating with this piece as it operates over the year.
The Thinking Medium
Last but not least, the University of Hull’s Brynmor Jones Library has on a show through 28 February, Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now featuring works from some of the all-time greatest artists. My jaw continued to drop in awe at each drawing I looked at, seventy in total spanning 500 years of drawing, including Leonardo da Vinci, Rodin, Rembrandt, Monet, Mondrian, Picasso, and Hockney.