Arnolfini | History and Archive

‘If you ask, ‘What do people want?’ the answer, as we would all say if we’re honest with ourselves, is that we want the familiar; something that doesn’t challenge our perceptions. ‘Arnolfini is about challenging perceptions’. Thus wrote Jeremy Rees, Arnolfini’s founding Director. This challenge was never regarded as a dry endeavour for a select few – rather, it was something to enliven, to relish, an exciting and potentially life-changing offer for the broadest of possible audiences. Rees said he had wanted to put an inscription above the door; ‘Enjoy yourself!’’

We’re delighted to have added that to the entrance for all to see when they come into Arnolfini’s home at Bush House.

Arnolfini was founded in 1961. Since then, we have shown the work of tens of thousands of artists from all over the world to tens of millions of people here in Bristol. This rich history is documented in our archive, a collection which includes curatorial files, publicity material, and photographic, moving image and audio documentation.

Most of our archive is now available to view at Bristol Archives, while work continues to make the remainder publicly accessible. Please see for further information, or email

In addition, we regularly explore aspects of our heritage through our programme and engagement work. Please check the links below to find out more.

If you have any memories you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you via

Sign up to our newsletter

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you recieve from us, or by contacting us here. We will treat your information with respect. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accorandce with these terms