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image: Janine Antoni, 2038 (2000). © Janine Antoni

Launching in March 2024 at Arnolfini, Hayward Gallery Touring’s major group exhibition Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood will plunge into the joys and heartaches, mess, myths and mishaps of motherhood through over 100 artworks, from the feminist avant-garde to the present day.

While the Madonna and Child is one of the great subjects of European art, we rarely see art about motherhood as a lived experience, in all its complexity. Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood will address this blind spot in art history, asserting the artist mother as an important – if rarely visible – cultural figure.

Featuring the work of more than sixty modern and contemporary artists, this exhibition will approach motherhood as a creative enterprise, albeit one at times tempered by ambivalence, exhaustion or grief. Acts of Creation will explore lived experience of motherhood, offering a complex account that engages with contemporary concerns about gender, caregiving and reproductive rights.

The exhibition will address diverse experiences of motherhood across three themes: Creation, which looks at conception, pregnancy, birth and nursing; Maintenance which explores motherhood and caregiving in the day-to-day; and Loss, which touches on miscarriage and involuntary childlessness, as well as reproductive rights. The heart of the exhibition is a series of revelatory self-portraits – a celebration of the artist as mother. 

A black and white photograph of one person sat on the bed eating a piece of macaroon, with a young person in the background ironing clothes on an ironing board.
Anna Grevenitis, Regard series, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.
Paula Rego Untitled 2, 1999, Courtesy Cristea Roberts Gallery
Paula Rego Untitled 2, 1999, Courtesy Cristea Roberts Gallery

Featuring painting, photography, sculpture, sound and film, artists in the exhibition include: Felicity Allen; Janine Antoni; Cassie Arnold; Bobby Baker; Elina Brotherus; Liesel Burisch; Cathy Cade; Lea Cetera; Jai Chuhan; Eileen Cooper; Renee Cox; Dorothy Cross; Rineke Dijkstra; Natalie Djurberg and Hans Berg; Leni Dothan; Marlene Dumas; Catherine Elwes; Tracey Emin; Jessa Fairbrother; Feministo; Fenix; Maeve Gilmore; Anna Grevenitis; Camille Henrot; Susan Hiller; Ghislaine Howard; Elsa James; Chantal Joffe; Claudette Johnson; Mary Kelly; Liss LaFleur; Tala Madani; Sally Mann; MATERNAL FANTASIES; Mother Art; Wangechi Mutu; Ishbel Myerscough; Everlyn Nicodemus; Catherine Opie; Fani Parali; Celia Paul; Cathie Pilkington; Laure Prouvost; Paula Rego; Su Richardson; Sister Seven; Monica Sjöö; Annegret Soltau; Tabitha Soren; Heather Spears; Nancy Spero; Hannah Starkey; Emma Talbot; Mierle Laderman Ukeles; VALIE EXPORT; Christine Voge; Del LaGrace Volcano; Barbara Walker; Caroline Walker; Carrie Mae Weems; Nancy Willis; Hermione Wiltshire; Hermione Wiltshire and Clare Bottomley; Carmen Winant; Daphne Wright; Billie Zangewa.

Please note we would like visitors to be aware that the artworks in Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood address some important issues surrounding women’s health and wellbeing including: Nudity, childbirth, (in)fertility, miscarriage, abortion, loss, domestic abuse, adoption, sterilisation and obstetric violence.

Hermione Wiltshire, Nicola Preparing for Birth, 2008.

Audio Playlist for Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood

Acts of Creation will be accompanied by a lively programme of public events and an illustrated book published by Thames and Hudson.

Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood Resources:

Please click on the images below to download a copy of the Gallery Guide and Eye Spy Trail to explore Acts of Creation. Copies are also available to use when visiting.

Cover of the Gallery Guide for Acts of Creation
graphic for the Eye Spy Guide

Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood is curated by Hettie Judah with Hayward Gallery Touring and will go onto:

Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), Birmingham: 22 June to 29 September 2024

Millennium Gallery, Sheffield: 24 October 2024 to 21 January 2025

Dundee Contemporary Arts: Spring 2025 (exact dates to be confirmed)

a black and white logo for Hayward Gallery Touring
a black and white logo for Midland Arts Centre
a black and white logo for Sheffield Museums
a black and white logo for Dundee Contemporary Arts
a black and white logo for Arts Council England
a mono Here for Culture logo

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