Alvaro Barrington: New Tate Britain Commission Unveiled

Tate Britain Commission Alvaro Barrington

Tate Britain has unveiled GRACE, a major new commission by Alvaro Barrington, offering a unique blend of sound, painting, and sculpture in the iconic Duveen Galleries. This immersive installation promises to take visitors on a personal journey, inviting them to reflect on women’s pivotal role and nurturing influence within Black culture, a theme central to Barrington’s life and art. The piece pays homage to three significant figures: his grandmother Frederica, a close friend and sister-figure Samantha, and his mother Emelda. Spanning three acts, the installation draws from Barrington’s rich experiences of Caribbean carnival culture and his vibrant childhood in Grenada and New York.

Upon entering the Duveen Galleries, visitors find themselves under a suspended corrugated steel roof, mimicking the sound of a tropical rainstorm. Inspired by Barrington’s memories of seeking shelter in his grandmother’s Grenadian home, this element creates an evocative auditory backdrop. The installation features a soundtrack curated with NTS radio’s Femi Adeyemi and includes new compositions by Kelman Duran, Andrew Hale, Devonté Hynes, and Olukemi Lijadu, alongside songs by Mangrove Steelband. Beneath the roof, rattan and plastic seats adorned with braided details and plastic quilts embroidered with postcards and works by Teresa Farrell offer a sense of intimacy and protection.

The journey continues with a striking four-metre-high aluminium sculpture of a dancing figure, based on Barrington’s friend Samantha, standing on a communal steel drum. The sculpture, dressed in ‘Pretty Mas’ jewellery by L’ENCHANTEUR, a costume by Jawara Alleyne, and nails by Mica Hendricks, celebrates the vibrancy of carnival. Paintings on scaffolding depict traditional ‘Mas’ characters and carnival scenes, recreating the lively streetscape of J’ouvert, the early-morning carnival celebration.

In the North Duveen gallery, the installation culminates in a reflective space featuring a boarded-up kiosk built to American prison cell dimensions, surrounded by barbed wire and crowd control barriers. This sombre setting, illuminated by light streaming through a stained-glass window, evokes themes of mass incarceration and the fears faced by Black mothers for their children. Church pews covered with quilts containing Barrington’s drawings further underscore the poignant narrative.

Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, expressed excitement over the new installation: “We are delighted to present Alvaro Barrington’s largest commission to date in Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries. Taking us from a tropical Caribbean rainstorm into the busy streets of carnival and leaving us in a reflective, sacred space, GRACE demonstrates Barrington’s ability to translate personal history into evocative, relatable experiences. We are excited to see how visitors interact with this powerful, immersive artwork.”

The Tate Britain Commission: Alvaro Barrington is a testament to the strong support and sponsorship it has received. It is proudly supported by Bottega Veneta and The Bukhman Family Foundation, with additional backing from the Tate Britain Commission, Alvaro Barrington Supporters Circle, and Tate Americas Foundation. Dominique Heyse-Moore, Senior Curator of Contemporary British Art, curates the project with dedicated assistance from Hannah Marsh, Sade Sarumi, and Chloe Hodge.

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