Press Releases

Dr. Louise Yelin Curates Neuberger Museum Exhibition

Date Released: 8/28/2009

"British Subjects: Identity and Self-Fashioning 1967-2009" will be exhibited September 13-December 13. This collaboration with Professor Tracy Fitzpatrick includes a series of lectures, films , a symposium, and other events.

(Purchase, New York)  When artist Tracey Emin, who represented Great Britain at the 2007 Venice Biennale, was asked by an interviewer whether she felt British, she replied, "I am British! My passport's British. I was born in London. My dad's Turkish-Cypriot; my mum's from the East End.... I'm definitively multicultural British!" The interviewer’s question was not so strange considering that in the last sixty years, Britain has become a multi-cultural society, transformed by the dissolution of its empire, post-war immigration, and the new social movements embracing minority cultures. This has had a tremendous impact on British culture and notions of identity -- on what it means to be British and conceptions of selfhood.

These themes will be addressed in British Subjects: Identity and Self-Fashioning 1967-2009, an exhibition opening at the Neuberger Museum of Art | Purchase College in Purchase, New York on September 13, 2009. According to Dr. Louise Yelin, curator, the themes “dramatize new notions of identity and present a wide array of artistic practices that constitute self-portraiture today.” On view will be more than sixty works -- masquerade, performance, videos, and installation as well as paintings, sculpture, and photography. Almost all of the artists were born in the post World War II era; many are migrants or children or migrants; some were born in Britain but migrated elsewhere. Among the artists to be included are internally-acclaimed painter/collage artist Richard Hamilton, Guyana-born Frank Bowling who participated in the 1971 Whitney Biennial, sculptor Mark Wallinger, Ron Mueck, Yinka Shonibare whose work considers issues of race and class, and Hew Locke; emerging artists Caron Geary and Ellie Rees; and women artists Sarah Lucas, Sam Taylor-Wood, Sonia Boyce, Jenny Saville, who invite us to consider the ways that we think about race and nationality through gender and the body.

 “In recent years, there have been numerous exhibitions devoted to contemporary portraiture and self-portraiture and to recent and contemporary British art,” notes Dr. Yelin. “As yet, though, no museum has undertaken an exhibition specifically focused on British self-portraiture since the 1960s. British Subjects and its accompanying catalogue will invite us to look afresh at Britain and British culture in a post-imperial, global age.” Dr. Yellin is Interim Dean of Humanities and Professor of Literature at Purchase College, State University of New York.  Support for British Subjects: Identity and Self-Fashioning 1965-2009 comes from Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art.

The museum has planned several programs in conjunction with the exhibition as follows:

York/New York: A Talk

Thursday, September 17, 3 – 5 pm


This presentation is the first stage of an ongoing project to engage British and New York-based performance writers on the subject of British identity. It grew out of the international conference, “Writing Encounters,” held in September 2008.


The writers will create short texts for specific recording technologies that are produced by “strangers” encountering the texts and the technologies. A “semi-private installation” will be the focus of the presentation.


Among those writers whose thinly-veiled self-fashionings will be considered are Brian Chikwava, a Zimbabwean who resides in Britain, Solail Kahn, a Yorkshire artist of Pakistani and German parentage, and the American performance artist Holly Hughes, whose text addresses assumptions Americans make about Britishness, as well as the potentially erotic encounter between the stranger and the self.


Claire Hind, Senior Lecturer at York/St. John University UK, who curated a series of commissions at the “Writing Encounters” conference in partnership with Claire MacDonald, Director of the International Centre for Fine Art Research at the University of the Arts London, and Lenora Champagne, Kempner Distinguished Professor at Purchase College/SUNY, will examine and analyze what the texts reveal about contemporary British identities.


She also will discuss the challenges and opportunities the project posed to the curators and the public, and will play selected recordings..


British Lives: A Symposium

Tuesday, October 27, 2:30-6:30 pm


In two sessions, a panel of distinguished scholars, writers, and artists will discuss: Britain in/and Self-Portraiture and Britain in/and Autobiography. Aminatta Forna, writer and broadcaster, is among the panelists. Two sessions will run 75-90 minutes each, with a question and answer period and a break between.


Film Series: British Subjects

Wednesdays, 4 pm


Each of the following films will be introduced by a Purchase College faculty member who will lead Q and A afterwards. (Programs held in the Museum Study on the first floor)


October 7:  “49-Up”, directed by Michael Apted

Apted had been interviewing a group of Britons from diverse class backgrounds since the mid-60s, when the subjects were seven years old. “49-Up” is the most recent in the series of documentaries tracing the arc of their lives at seven-year intervals. The film offers an often-surprising view of the many different ways that lives develop.


November 4:  “Bhaji on the Beach”, directed by Gurinder Chadha

This film, by the director of “Bend It Like Beckham,” follows a group of South Asian women  -- recent immigrants and their daughters -- on a day-long excursion to the beach.  In the course of the day, some of the women reconsider their life histories and others make crucial decisions about their futures.


December 2:  “Looking for Langston & Derek”, directed by Isaac Julien

Combining biography and autobiography, Isaac Julien obliquely addresses his own life and work through an exploration of two of the artists who influenced him, the African-American poet Langston Hughes, and the British film director Derek Jarman.


Art Sandwiched-In

Wednesday, September 23, noon

Louise Yelin, curator of British Subjects: Identity and Self-Fashioning 1965-2009 leads this fascinating tour.

Free with Museum admission; free to Purchase College

faculty, staff and students


Family First Saturday

Saturday, October 3, 1-4 pm

Look at You!

Inspired by British Subjects: Identity and Self-Fashioning

Art workshops (1-4 pm), themed gallery talks (1-3 pm),

and live music provided by Purchase College students (3-4 pm)

round out the afternoon. Workshops are for children 5-10.

Free admission