Arts by the Sea Festival is delighted to host the work of British collage artist and satirist, Cold War Steve at its 10th anniversary event. The piece coming to Bournemouth on Boscombe beach from Friday 25th September to Sunday 4th October, is a massive windbreak 25 metres long and 5 metres high, portraying a Bournemouth beach scene, featuring notable good people, hopeful themes and a giant ‘welcome’ mat facing the sea. Festival goers can discover Cold War Steve’s piece at any point during the run of Arts by the Sea and it is free to view – like all of his work – in the festival’s newly revised, COVID-secure format.
Art is making a bold escape from the confines of white box galleries as Cold War Steve – the nom de plume of Christopher Spencer – embarks on a UK-wide, outdoor art installation. The subversive new voice of Cold War Steve takes a provocative look at the state of art, politics, and the true psyche of post-lockdown Britain. Through his work he brings art to the masses with a number of large-scale displays throughout the country including locations in Medway, Liverpool, Coventry, and at Bournemouth’s Arts by the Sea.
The satirical collages of Birmingham-based Cold War Steve have made him a cult phenomenon, particularly on social media, but he is also highly regarded in the art world being celebrated as the ‘Brexit Bruegel’ and ‘a modern-day Hogarth’.
Always challenging and provocative, the artwork curated by Cold War Steve for Arts by the Sea was originally intended as a diptych, with hopeful positivity on one side offset by a darker opposite side depicting a dystopian nightmare featuring favourite villains, evil sandworms and Nazis. However, the artwork caused debate at BCP Council – producers and co-funders of Arts by the Sea Festival (along with Arts Council England) who agreed to host the artwork, but on the condition the dystopian side was covered from public view.
Cllr Mark Howell, Acting Leader of BCP Council said, “As a Council, we are committed to developing a diverse cultural ecosystem that supports challenging work, which may include works with political overtones. The dystopian side of the artwork is though hard-hitting political comment. The Council should not promote, or be perceived as promoting, particular political viewpoints. The directness of this image and its display in isolation would risk such a perception.
“Also, the beach is a public space and it is a privilege for anyone to be granted an opportunity to use it to promote their work. While we would like to see more art on the seafront, this wonderful space is used by people from all walks of life. We should aim to promote understanding, and to accommodate the concerns and interests of a broad spectrum of society. I feel that the dystopian image risks causing further division at a time when we need to come together as a population.”
Of his exhibition at Arts by Sea, Cold War Steve explained, “The windbreak in Bournemouth is by far the biggest piece I have ever exhibited (an engineering feat) and a return to a subject I love on Bournemouth Beach having previously featured on my work for the National Gallery of Scotland called ‘Harold, A Ghost of Lost Futures’. It is a celebration and hopeful piece about the UK (with some local heroes included too) – looking at the values that make us great; inclusivity, compassion, diversity, charity and creativity.
“Whilst the censored other side deals with the dark underbelly of our society, the movements of intolerance, hatred and division, issues that should never be ignored, let alone covered up. It also looks at the failure of political leadership. I look forward to hearing what people think about the artwork they can see and also the artwork they can’t. Someone else made that decision for them, sadly.”
The controversial artwork will create a striking image on Boscombe beach, and for those who are keen to view the dystopian imagery and experience this exhibit’s full effect, festival organisers have confirmed it will be on display in its entirety on the Arts by the Sea website: www.artsbythsea.co.uk.
Andrea Francis, Festival Director added, “As an arts festival we are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase Cold War Steve’s work. It’s incredibly exciting to bring national artists to the area, putting Bournemouth on the cultural map. As a local authority produced festival, however, we understand the council’s position. The aim of the festival remains to bring an accessible and diverse range of art into the conurbation’s public spaces for residents and visitors to enjoy for free.”
To find out when and where the exhibit can be seen at Arts by the Sea Festival along with other intriguing and thought provoking events, visit www.artsbythesea.co.uk.