A new home for world-class art

The stunning work of three acclaimed artists from South Africa, Romania and Poland is on display in Belfast at an exhibition curated by Derryman Greg McCartney, writes Brian Campbell

DID you hear the one about the Romanian, the South African, the Pole and the Derryman? This is one way of summing up an eye-catching exhibition in Belfast curated by Derry native Gregory McCartney and showcasing the staggering work of three acclaimed artists: Adrian Ghenie, Pieter Hugo and Olaf Brzeski. The exhibition - I will go there, take me home - has just opened at The MAC, a venue recently named as a finalist for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015.

McCartney was the curator behind the 2013 Derry City of Culture installation Cunningham (by Ackroyd and Harvey) - in which a building at Ebrington Barracks was covered with grass. He has now brought the work of three huge names in the art world to Belfast.

The works all share the theme of scarred identities, something that's understandable as the artists come from post-communist Romania and Poland and post-Apartheid South Africa. "I wanted to put on a show about Northern Ireland without using artists from here and with no references to Northern Ireland. It's about being trapped by history," explains McCartney. "As a curator you want to create a world for people to explore.

I don't put on exhibitions that preach; I want people to find their own way in and their own way out."

The first piece that jumps out at you (in the venue's Sunken Gallery), is Dream-Spontaneous Combustion by Olaf Brzeski, a solid plume of black smoke that is said to depict 'the threat of sudden savage spontaneous combustion'. "I suppose it represents circumstances that lead to pent-up tension and an explosion," says McCartney. "Obviously people don't normally spontaneously combust," he laughs. "But metaphorically it represents a shock to the system. I think it's good that it'll probably be the first piece that people see when they come in. "As you can see throughout the exhibition, there's a lot of fire and smoke."

Much of the multi-layered work of Adrian Ghenie is influenced by nuclear bombs, Nazi Germany and dictatorship in his native Romania. His work The Fake Rothko (not a part of this

exhibition) was sold for £1.4 million last year, so this gives an idea of what an in-demand artist he is. "Adrian is in his 30s and he's a real rising star of the art world," says McCartney.

The exhibition features a stunning series of large-scale photos taken by Johannesburg native Pieter Hugo of 'people living on the periphery in African shantytowns'.

Some of the most striking images are of the 'hyena men' of Nigeria, who travel with hyenas, monkeys, potions and snakes and are thought by some to be 'medicine men' and performers and by others to be drug dealers or debt collectors. "Pieter is a world-famous photographer and these are probably his most famous images," says McCartney.

* The exhibition `I will go there, take me home' runs at The MAC in Belfast until July 26. Pieter Hugo will give a free talk at the venue on Monday at 3pm (

Picture by Bill Smyth

* Gregory McCartney stands beside 'Dream-Spontaneous Combustion' by Olaf Brzeski at The MAC

* Top, Air Raid, 2008 - by Adrian Ghenie. Above, Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana 2010 - by Pieter Hugo. Right, Chigozie Nechi, Enugu, Nigeria, 2009 - by Pieter Hugo


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