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Arnolfini - est 1961

2016 has been a monumental year! Without dwelling on Brexit, Trump or funding cuts we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the city for continuing what we all do best – making Bristol a unique and enduring cultural destination of great dynamism and diversity. Whilst we may or may not have much influence on the bigger global stories unfolding round us, we are always free to express our response to those and more.

Here are some highlights of our year that we have been very proud to present to the people of Bristol and visitors from all over the world…


“A breathtaking monumental ode to the oceans”

2016 began with a voyage into the ‘aquatic sublime’ as we presented the UK premiere of John Akomfrah’s acclaimed video installation Vertigo Sea.

“a remarkably dense, moving work that explores parallel histories of the Atlantic slave trade, the whaling industry, and past and present waves of human migration.”

Fusing BBC Natural History archive footage with new film and classical readings Akomfrah’s immersive installation delivered a timely and potent reminder of current issues around global migration, the refugee crisis and ecological concerns.

“mesmerising, shocking, exquisite”

“a terrible beauty, John Akomfrah’s #VertigoSea is awe inspiringly beautiful and ambitious and terrifying”

The exhibition included Tropikos, a work selected as a 70th Anniversary Commission for the Arts Council Collection 

See what visitors thought here.

Vertigo Sea listed as artnet News Critics’ Picks: The Most Memorable Artworks of 2016

Hear John Akomfrah talk about Vertigo Sea in conversation with Anthony Downey.

“John Akomfrah’s film was the toast of the Venice Bienale but it is easier to give it the attention it deserves in Bristol, an appropriate setting for a lament on human cruelty to whales and fellow men in the form of slaves.”

John Akomfrah has been nominated for Artes Mundi 7 Prize – we wish him the best of luck!


“A window to another world”

In Spring we teamed up with Bristol Museum to present Art from Elsewhere a body of powerful socially-engaged work from international artists addressing themes of life, politics and identity within a rapidly globalising society. Across two sites and curated by David Elliot, the exhibition was the culmination of a national tour born from a 2007 scheme, Art Fund International, giving regional museums the opportunity to spend up to one million pounds to acquire international art for the benefit of the public.

Download audio descriptions of selected artworks in the show:

The programme included walks, tours, and most significantly an international conference exploring new directions in public art collecting. Listen again to HOW GLOBAL? conference here

“ exciting and varied international contemporary exhibition”

“uncompromisingly political and internationalist, #ArtElsewhere at @arnolfiniarts was v.good yesterday. Eager for part two at @bristolmuseum” 

Emporiums of inspiration…

We were thrilled to be nominated for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2016 and whilst narrowly losing out to the V&A, it was an honour to be considered in such company as other leading UK museums and galleries and to be recognised as “a space for ideas before they become orthodoxies”.

The coverage through national TV, press and radio helped reinforce Bristol’s reputation as a cutting-edge cultural city.

Read more about the prize and watch our nomination video here.

See the fantastic photo submissions of Arnolfini to the Museum of the Year photo competition.

Tune in to an audio tour of Arnolfini spaces with thanks to VocalEyes:

Arnolfini is incredibly proud to have the hard work of our team, the talent of our artists and the quality of our partnerships recognised by this important national programme.”

“The judges were hugely impressed by what they saw; a space for all, which offers an outstanding, ambitious and bold artistic programme of the highest quality, and that has a deep-rooted connection and dedication to local and international audiences.”


Punk has more than one story…

In Punks anniversary year we spent the summer discovering our inner rebel and celebrating Bristol’s punk heritage. We drew upon the city’s independent spirit and explored punk as an attitude that has more than one history and meaning!

It was an unruly summer season of music, performance, visual art and activities that brought our corner of the harbourside to life. Foyer takeovers, outdoor poster work, live radio shows, inhabit, live music, making, performance, events and workshops spilled out of the building leaked into the bookshop and café, and activated the outdoor space.

Zine making workshops were a highlight of the season with our staff and visitors. See some creations here.

Read a feature from Crack Magazine – Reconsidering punk: how women are rewriting punk’s timeline.


Seeds of Change:

Constructed from a disused grain barge, the garden has been populated with a variety of non-native plants, creating a living history of the city’s trade and maritime past for almost 5 years. Once again this season we enjoyed fascinating boat tours, storytelling and live music on board the floating garden.

Maria Theresa Alves, the artist behind the project has been named winner of The New School’s 2016-2018 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. 

Read more about the project.

“Inspired by #BallastSeed, beautiful arts meets science and nature in the public forum @arnolfiniarts”


Celebrating Bristol vibes…

We revelled in soaking up the sun and sounds on the harbourside from some of Bristol’s best dj’s over the summer months as we launched Summer Cuts.

To celebrate our home in the best sun spot in town, we invited four DJ collectives to bring it to life. We listened to tunes, sampled the seasonal BBQ and enjoyed the outdoor bar #outsidefini.

Taking the music baton from Summer Cuts, #DUNEseries has been keeping us warm so far this winter with live dj sets in Arnolfini café bar and plenty more to come in 2017.


Coming together…

Date: 28/09/2016
Photographer: Michael Lloyd/Freelance

We have now completed the final phase of our building works, and knocked through walls ahead of our second academic term in partnership with UWE Arts Faculty. With an integrated building between campus and gallery we now welcome 1,500 students a week into a complete working and educational model here at Arnolfini. The first of its kind in the UK.


The creators of tomorrow…

Another successful Bristol family Arts Festival was enjoyed by many this Autumn. Once again, Bristol families took advantage of a packed calendar of family arts events across the city for the whole of October. Now in its fourth year the popular festival drew together cultural venues across the city and presented projects and activities to audiences from all backgrounds and walks of life involved in music, theatre, storytelling, drawing, making and much more!

Follow the Bristol Family Arts Festival Facebook page.


Emotional Archaeology…

This Autumn we’ve been proud to exhibit the first national survey show of Bristol based artist Daphne Wright. The presentation of her unique craft in making sculpture with emotional intensity through a range of fragile materials has generated a huge impact amongst a wide range of age groups amongst our audiences reflecting on intimate themes such as ageing, dementia, family and the home.

“When you see sculptures like this you expect them to breath”

“Poignancy and unsettling beauty”

“..a technical tour de force”

Hauntingly beautiful. This exhibition by #daphnewright will stay with you.

Visceral, evocative, powerful. A must see. #DaphneWright @ArnolfiniArts

See the fantastic images on social media shared by visitors to the exhibition.

Read a review from Epigram. 

Find out more from the makers and creators: 

Hear Daphne in conversation with Sculptor Phyllida Barlow:



Pushing the boundaries…

It was with delight that we announced Ben Thomas had received The Marsh Award for Excellence in Gallery Education. Ben has worked at Arnolfini since 2014 and his passion & commitment has a huge impact on the Learning Programme in the organisation.

Take a look at Young Arnolfini’s InHabit exhibition shown in Gallery 1 this Summer.


A new year with a whole lot of noise…

We’re about to get ready for the fourth incarnation of New Year//New Noise with Howling Owl Records but not before we look back at the third instalment which kick started 2016 with a whole weekend of  ‘revelry and forward-thinking music, art and noise.’

Revisit the weekend here.

Got your tickets for 2017?


In The Cloud…


Please Contact for Reproduction rights

It’s been another significant year for the Primary Capital Programme, our partnership with Bristol City Council’s innovative public art strategy-  the most extensive programme of commissioning contemporary art for school in the design of important creative educational spaces.

This year Turner Prize winners Assemble took charge, alongside school children, to design an artwork,The Cloud, for Bridge Farm Primary. Read more here.


Signing off…

As we get ready to say goodbye to 2016, we will also be saying farewell to our CEO Kate Brindley. After 3 years of service, Kate is moving on from Arnolfini to take up a new role as Director of Collections and Exhibitions at Chatsworth.

As excited as I am to take up this new challenge, I am also sad to be moving on from Bristol and Arnolfini. It has been immensely inspiring and rewarding to contribute to the cultural and contemporary relevance of Arnolfini and to the city of Bristol at local, national and international levels. However, it is a good timing to pass the baton onto someone else to lead the organisation into its next three year phase of growth and development.”


And not forgetting our much loved Bookshop who this year were named Bookshop of the Month by Yale University Press and just  a few months ago we welcomed new Head Chef Chris Palmer into the fold in the cafe bar. Stop by soon and sample something new from the menu.


Thank you to all of our audiences, friends, colleagues and supporters who helped make 2016 another amazing year.

We look forward to sharing our 2017 programme with you. See what’s already lined up next year.