The Harris Museum & Art Gallery, with artist Nathaniel Mellors, has won the prestigious Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2014.
Now in its sixth year, the £40,000 prize, generously supported by the Sfumato Foundation, is one of the country's highest value art awards.
The prize offers the winning regional museum the opportunity to commission a major new artwork for their permanent collection by an artist who is not yet well represented in museum collections in this country.
British artist, Nathaniel Mellors makes satirical, absurd and hilarious videos, sculptures, performances and writings that challenge our notions of taste, morality, and intelligence. As Mellors increasingly works abroad, this commission is the first acquisition of his work for a public institution in the UK.
Mellors will make a new work as part of his ongoing Ourhouse series which has previously featured British acting talent such as Richard Bremner (Control, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone) and Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) alongside local performers in supporting roles.
Combining fiction, sculpture, performance and film, it will be set in the architecturally monumental, Brutalist Preston Bus Station.
The Bus Station has recently been Grade II listed and this, as well as the compact and architecturally diverse Preston city centre makes for an ideal film set.
Brutalism rapidly became antiquated but is now is now undergoing re-evaluation and receiving broader appreciation. These contradictions have inspired Mellors to imagine the structure inhabited by warring factions of cannibals and Neanderthals.
More about the commissioned project:
Nathaniel Mellors said:
“The support and faith in my work that this award represents is impossible to put a price on, particularly from such a strong shortlist. It is a unique opportunity to consolidate recent developments in my practice and pull out some deeper weirdness, both with my amazing collaborators and through the extraordinary locations in and around Preston.”
Clarissa Corfe, who curated the contemporary art programme said:
"I had been following Nathaniel’s practice for a few years, he is an extraordinary artist, I had always wanted to commission a new film by him so when the opportunity came to apply to the Contemporary Art Society Award, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something really ambitious. I will be including the film in an exhibition that I am curating at the museum in Spring 2016 that uses the Theatre of the Absurd as a starting point."
Tom Morton, Contributing Editor to Frieze and one of the award panellists, said:
"Nathaniel Mellors is a rare and vital voice in contemporary British art. His fantastic - and fantastical - proposal stood out, even in a very strong field. The Harris Museum’s ambition in working with this bold and uncompromising artist is to be applauded. I look forward to seeing their collaboration bear fruit.”
Caroline Douglas, director of the Contemporary Art Society, said:
“In a year with exceptionally strong applications for the Award, the Harris Museum proposal with Nathaniel Mellors was outstanding. Nathaniel Mellors’ work connects with a tradition of absurdist and satirical film making in Britain that includes such figures as Lindsay Anderson and Derek Jarman. I am delighted that the Award will enable the production of a substantial new work within Mellors’ oeuvre, and one that links so directly to the city it will be made in.”
Alex Walker, Head of Arts & Heritage, Preston City Council, said:
“We are delighted to have won the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award for Museums 2014 in partnership with Nathaniel Mellors. We are very excited to be bringing his imaginative commission to life in Preston. It will be a film that is rooted in its locality; linking Preston’s two most recognisable buildings, Preston Bus Station and the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.”
Councillor Veronica Afrin, Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure Services; Preston City Council said:
“Nathaniel Mellors is a prestigious and fascinating artist, and we are immensely proud to be working with him on this major commission. His unique imagination and approach to film making will enable him to draw on and re-imagine the museum’s collections and the fabric of city, cementing Preston’s growing reputation as a centre for high quality cultural activity.”