Spike Island

Spike Island announced as Freelands Award Year 3 Winner with artist Veronica Ryan

Freelands Foundation announces Spike Island as the third recipient of the annual £100,000 Freelands Award.

Spike Island will be working with the Foundation to present a solo exhibition of new work by Veronica Ryan in Autumn 2020, in addition to producing a monograph with the distinguished British sculptor. 

The Freelands Award was established in 2016 by Freelands Foundation, chaired by Elisabeth Murdoch, to enable a regional arts organisation to present a large-scale exhibition, including a significant new work, by a mid-career female artist who may not have yet received the acclaim or public recognition that her work deserves. The total value of the award is £100,000, of which £25,000 is to be paid directly to the artist.

Veronica Ryan’s forthcoming exhibition at Spike Island will be her largest and most ambitious solo exhibition to date. The central proposition of the exhibition is to commission significant new works and to situate them in dialogue with re-made early works that were destroyed in the 2004 Momart fire. In doing so, thematic and material connections will link earlier works to her current practice, as well as highlighting complexities around reconstruction and reinterpretation. Alongside the exhibition, Spike Island will become a vibrant hub for the production and debate of Ryan’s work, with a three-month artist residency and symposium that will offer an opportunity for new audiences to engage directly with Ryan’s process through participation and discussion.

Veronica Ryan’s links with the South West region date back to the 1970s, when she studied at Bath Academy of Art. She has also realised residencies in St Ives in 1998 and 2018. Nothing could be more appropriate than to present Ryan’s career-defining exhibition in the same city as her first solo show, at Arnolfini over 30 years earlier. The forthcoming exhibition at Spike Island will firmly reestablish Ryan back in the UK, where she is best known for the work she was making during the 1980s and 90s, included in acclaimed solo exhibitions at: Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (1987), Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (1988) and Camden Arts Centre (1995).


Robert Leckie (Director, Spike Island) said:

“My colleagues and I are thrilled that the Freelands Foundation have selected Spike Island and Veronica Ryan to work in partnership on this important project. This award presents a career-defining opportunity for Ryan, a historically important artist whose work has previously opened up new frontiers in sculpture, and who is once again on an upward trajectory. As an organisation dedicated to supporting artists’ development and the production and presentation of ambitious new work, welcoming Ryan into our dynamic community of artists at this point in her career is an outstanding opportunity for Spike Island. We are also keen to share her work with audiences in Bristol and the UK through an ambitious exhibition in Spike Island’s galleries, accompanied by an extensive public programme and a monographic publication. The award also provides crucial funding for a programme of learning and engagement activities, presenting a fantastic opportunity for Spike Island to grow as an organisation.”

Elisabeth Murdoch, Founder and Chair of Freelands Foundation said:

“The Foundation and I are thrilled to be working with Spike Island on such an important exhibition of Veronica Ryan’s multidisciplinary work. The judging panel were in strong agreement that the organisation and artist were an excellent match. The upcoming exhibition opens Ryan’s work up to new narratives, new voices and new writing by utilising the gallery’s outstanding facilities and team resources. The project will encompass not just the exhibition but a comprehensive monograph and artist residency at Spike Island studios, allowing a wide audience to better understand the way in which Ryan’s historical works relate and connect to new commissions almost three decades later.”

The shortlist of organisations for this year’s award included: Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Spike Island, Bristol; Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield.

Now in its third year, the first Freelands Award supported Glasgow-based artist, Jacqueline Donachie’s 2017 exhibition at The Fruitmarket
Gallery and the second winner, Nottingham Contemporary and filmmaker Lis Rhodes, whose solo exhibition will be on display from 25 May to 25 August 2019.

The selection panel for the 2018 Award was as follows: Elisabeth Murdoch (Chair); Martin Clark, Director, Camden Arts Centre; Susan Hiller, Artist; Jenni Lomax, Curator and former Director of Camden Arts Centre; and Beatrix Ruf, Curator and former Director of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

For more information, download a press release.