Bedford-based artist showcases project he started during lockdown for Getty Museum

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It’s at The Higgins Bedford

Bedford-based artist Peter Brathwaite is showcasing some of his work in a free exhibition at The Higgins Bedford

Called Rediscovering Black Portraiture, it opens on Saturday, May 18 and aims to offers a thought-provoking exploration of black representation in western art history.

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Brathwaite – an opera singer, artist, broadcaster, and writer – embarked on this project during the first Covid lockdown in 2020. With performances cancelled, he turned his creative energy inwards and reimagined over 100 artworks featuring black subjects. This exploration stemmed from the online #GettyMuseumChallenge, which invited participants to recreate famous paintings using everyday household objects.

The Virgin of Guadalupe re-creation by Peter Brathwaite (with photographic partner Sam Baldock) and the original artwork, right. Anon, The Virgin of Guadalupe. Oil painting, 1745The Virgin of Guadalupe re-creation by Peter Brathwaite (with photographic partner Sam Baldock) and the original artwork, right. Anon, The Virgin of Guadalupe. Oil painting, 1745
The Virgin of Guadalupe re-creation by Peter Brathwaite (with photographic partner Sam Baldock) and the original artwork, right. Anon, The Virgin of Guadalupe. Oil painting, 1745

Brathwaite said: “I began restaging black portraits for the Getty Museum’s online Covid-19 lockdown challenge to re-create works of art using only what you had to hand at home. My take on this challenge makes visible the often-silent black lives, pushed to the margins of western art history. In these staged photographs I appear as both subject and object, recreating the pose in the historic picture.

“As an opera singer, I see each photographic re-staging as a performance; performances that riff on the stories of my own ancestors – both enslaved Africans and English enslavers in Barbados – and the black figures who appear in portraits I choose to embody.”

Brathwaite’s artistic lens extends across the entire Higgins Bedford. Visitors will encounter reimagined Caribbean dolls and fresh interpretations of existing objects within the Victorian House. The Dressing Room showcases his reimagined artworks alongside his personal reflections, while the Collectors Gallery features his captivating recreation of The Paston Treasure.

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