AGO hosts exhibition showcasing the creativity of the Caribbean diaspora in Britain

The exhibition traces 70 years of art from and inspired by the Caribbean and features more than 40 Black British artists.

Michael McMillan, The Front Room: Inna Toronto/6ix,2023. Mixed media site-specific installation, on view in Life Between Islands Caribbean British Art 1950’s – Now, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, December 6, 2023 – April 1, 2024. © Michael McMillan. Photo: Sean Weaver © AGO.

An exhibition which traces the impact of Caribbean art and thought on British art history over the course of seven decades is now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art, 1950s-Now, which is making its North American debut in Toronto, references poetry, film, activism, and music, and reflects through art how Caribbean-British artists forged new identities, communities, and cultures in Britain.

The exhibition features a new immersive installation called The Front Room: Inna Toronto/6ix by Michael McMillan, which is the latest in a series of installations meant to “expose the social underpinnings of domestic spaces” including class, religion, gender, or alienation. In this work, McMillan invites visitors to “make themselves at home” in the front room of a Caribbean immigrant family in suburban Toronto in the 1980s. The images on the walls of this room were provided by the Vintage Black Canada Archive.

The exhibition is co-curated by David A. Bailey, director, artistic director of the International Curators Forum, and Alex Farquharson, director, Tate Britain and overseen by Julie Crooks, curator, Arts of Global Africa, and the Diaspora.

Michael McMillan, The Front Room: Inna Toronto/6ix,2023. Mixed media site-specific installation, on view in Life Between Islands Caribbean British Art 1950’s – Now, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, December 6, 2023 – April 1, 2024. © Michael McMillan. Photo: Sean Weaver © AGO.

Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art, 1950s-Now features artwork by more than 40 artists from the Caribbean and those influenced by it, including Aubrey Williams, Donald Locke, Horace Ové, Isaac Julien, Sonia Boyce, Claudette Johnson, Peter Doig, Hurvin Anderson, Barbara Walker, and Alberta Whittle.

“It is a great pleasure to welcome these artworks and artists to Toronto — many of whom for the first time. This exhibition was a hugely important event in Britain. It invites us to continue the conversations the AGO began in 2021 with Fragments of Epic Memory, to share great art often unseen here in Canada and to consider the extraordinary impact that the Caribbean diaspora has had in Britain and globally,” said Julie Crooks, AGO curator, Arts of Global Africa, and the Diaspora.

Life Between Islands, the first exhibition of its kind in Britain, takes its title from the Jamaican-British writer Stuart Hall’s memoir, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands.

Michael McMillan, The Front Room: Inna Toronto/6ix,2023. Mixed media site-specific installation, on view in Life Between Islands Caribbean British Art 1950’s – Now, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, December 6, 2023 – April 1, 2024. © Michael McMillan. Photo: Sean Weaver © AGO.

“In mounting Life Between Islands, we undertook what no major British museum had done to date, which is to tell the history of British art from a Caribbean vantage point,” said co-curators David A. Bailey, artistic director of the International Curators Forum, and Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain. “But we did that knowing the impact of the Caribbean Diaspora is truly global and that the experiences and ideas that fuel these artworks resonate far beyond Britain’s shores. Seeing this exhibition reborn in Toronto has been inspiring, and we eagerly look forward to seeing what audiences here bring to it.”

Michael McMillan, The Front Room: Inna Toronto/6ix,2023. Mixed media site-specific installation, on view in Life Between Islands Caribbean British Art 1950’s – Now, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, December 6, 2023 – April 1, 2024. © Michael McMillan. Photo: Sean Weaver © AGO.

Life Between Islands at the AGO is dedicated to the memory of the influential Trinidadian artist Horace Ové (1939-2023), and features artworks by Hurvin Anderson, Frank Bowling, Sonia Boyce, Vanley Burke, Pogus Caesar, Blue Curry, Paul Dash, Peter Doig, Denzil Forrester, Claudette Johnson, Liz Johnson Artur, Rachel Jones, Tam Joseph, Isaac Julien, Roshini Kempadoo, Neil Kenlock, Donald Lock, Hew Locke, John Lyons, Michael McMillan, Althea McNish, Steve McQueen, Marcia Michael, Ronald Moody, Dennis Morris, Chris Ofili, Horace Ové, Charlie Phillips, Keith Piper, Ingrid Pollard, Barbara Walker, Vron Ware, Alberta Whittle, Aubrey Williams and Denis Williams.

The exhibition will run until April 1, 2024.