Chester Contemporary – a major new visual arts event 22 September – 1 December 2023

Chester Contemporary – a major new visual arts event 22 September – 1 December 2023

The programme for Chester Contemporary, has been revealed by Cheshire West and Chester Council, this is a major new visual arts event curated by Chester-born artist Ryan Gander.

Chester Contemporary will show the work of international and Chester-based contemporary artists, including emerging artists and a creative programme with communities and schools in the city.

The full programme announced today features John Akomfrah presenting his ground-breaking film Mnemosyne, a haunting exploration of myth, memory and migration, at the Grosvenor Museum.

John Akomfrah Mnemosyne Chester Contemporary

John Akomfrah Mnemosyne Chester Contemporary

Fiona Banner AKA The Vanity Press with DIS ARM, a multi-layered installation in a vacant shop unit where helicopter blades, repurposed shop dummies, an authentic decoy fighter plane fill the space; Them Over Road, a new work from Simeon Barclay blends found objects and neon in three locations to explore a city’s potential to transform.

Jacq Bebb is showing two new works for voice and sculpture, both exploring themes of skulking – the act of loitering with intent; Chester Contemporary is home to the UK premiere of Fischli Weiss’ large-scale piece How to Work Better, 1991, a 10-point manifesto that capture the artists’ genius for making the ordinary extraordinary.

Tim Foxon presents Contemporary Interventions, playful happenings across the city over the 10-weeks of the event;Artist Director Ryan Gander has created three new interventions for Chester, including a permanent reminder of Chester Contemporary in the form of an original tattoo, or for the more risk averse a new Ryan Gander cocktail, the Cestrian Ya-Ya and a brand new flag for the Contemporary, which will be seen flying over the Lady Diana boat on the River Dee.

Hannah Perry has an untitled mesmerising installation which conjures the industrial sounds and materials of Perry’s youth in Chester; and Turner Prize-winning Elizabeth Price presents HORSETAILS, a new spoken word and choral work for the majestic surroundings of Chester Cathedral.

Patricia Mackinnon-Day’s The Start of All Imaginings, a co-created work that explores the personal journeys of nine Chester market traders and illuminates the rich vibrancy of market spaces.

An emerging artist programme, also curated by Ryan Gander, and presented in association with Storyhouse will see five artists bring new and distinctive work to the Contemporary: Charlotte van Berckel, Nick Davies, Harry Grundy, William Lang and James Lomax are all at a pivotal point in their careers and will be showing work alongside the core Contemporary’s artistic programme.

Their eclectic range of new works include a new piece for Chester racecourse inspired by both a grudge and an ancient football match, and works inspired by the question of whether ‘the public’ exists as a concept (Nick Davies); ‘tarpaulins’ popping up across the city which evoke Chester’s merchant past (James Lomax); reinterpretations of traditional art in two settings, and a special Chester Contemporary visitors’ book (Charlotte van Berckel); a mown lawn on the Deans field by Chester Cathedral, the setting for a performance work, and wind chimes for the city (William Lang); and specially-created puddle bowls, with a trip for a tree on Grosvenor Park’s  miniature railway (Harry Grundy).

A schools’ programme has brought nine artists together with ten primary schools across the city to create work that will be shown as part of the Contemporary.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “Chester once more steps onto the international stage this autumn with a glittering list of artists bringing their work to both established and new venues and locations across the city.

“The theme is ‘Centred on the Periphery’ – an exploration of how those places on the edges of the centre, often just out of sight of the mainstream, can become the primary focus. I look forward to welcoming all of the artists to our city and experiencing the Chester Contemporary.”

Chester Contemporary will also be a ‘walking biennial’, with works easily discoverable across the city, where new and unexpected stories collide with Chester’s traditional and established history.

Ryan Gander, OBE RA said: “I think most of us see the world in one of two ways; either as participants or observers. ‘Participants’ find themselves in a world in which they act and interact, from a first-person point of view, and consider themselves, their thoughts and actions to be integral to the unfolding plot. ‘Observers’, however, consider themselves to be merely an onlooker, whose experience, thoughts and perspective are excluded from the over-arching narrative.

Ryan Gander Chester Contemporary

“The theme of the inaugural Chester Contemporary is ‘Centred on the periphery’, and it is an invitation to consider the notion of ‘the centre’, and the concept of a point of view as being a catalyst for creativity. The artworks and interventions by the participating artists call into question the conformist unquestioned rhetoric of the centre that we are all fed. The centre is located wherever the action is happening, wherever you are. The centre is wherever you make it.”

For the full programme visit

Chester Contemporary has received £200,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.