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Arnolfini - est 1961

A dialogue between the city and its people. Arnolfini presents The Promise – an exhibition of international contemporary art with a focus on the city of Bristol.

With: Abraham Cruzvillegas, Assemble, Charlotte Moth, Gabriel Lester, Isa Genzken , Jennifer Kabat, Jeremiah Day, John Miller, Jonathan Mosley, Josef Strau, Judith Hopf, Kate Newby, Lost Property, Marcel Breuer, Oscar Tuazon, Sophie Warren, Stephen Willats, Studio Manuel Raeder, muf

The exhibition explores the potential futures of cities, and the role of architecture, design and the arts within these potentials. Besides the design of physical spaces in the city, the project will also engage with the role of the imagination, and how we construct for ourselves an image of the city that we can share and with which we can identify.

The exhibition in the galleries includes a display of architecture models and other materials that relate to the history of the city including a detailed, large-scale model of the city centre, and a futuristic plan for a museum in Castle Park. These fascinating items give an overview of the diverse ways in which Bristol has been imagined, but not always realised.

Brentford Towers by Stephen Willats, made with residents of Harvey House, Green Dragon Lane Estate, Brentford, West London in 1985, was a seminal work about the idea of a community based art practice.  For The Promise, Arnolfini re-presents 12 panels from this remarkable project, along with additional material related to the work.

The exhibition also includes major works by Abraham Cruzvillegas, Luke Fowler, Isa Genzken, Judith Hopf, Marcel Breuer, John Miller, Charlotte Moth, muf: architecture/art, Studio Manuel Raeder, Josef Strau, Sophie Warren and Jonathan Mosley, Stephen Willats and a Mapping Project: Doing Things Separately Together.  

The exhibition in Arnolfini’s gallery spaces is complemented by installations, performances, sculptures, walks and family events throughout Bristol. These events explore the relationship between the city and its residents, inspiring visitors to rediscover Bristol and view the city from new perspectives.

Offsite commissions include works by Jeremiah Day, Assemble, Kate Newby, and have been developed for significant places in Bristol. The exhibition is accompanied by a new text by Jennifer Kabat.

Gabriel Lester presents two “Aeolian” or wind harps, musical instruments activated and played by the wind. They are presented on the harbourside outside Arnolfini.

On The Downs, one of Bristol’s oldest public parks, Oscar Tuazon has created a 20 foot-high sculpture entitled Live Steam Shift Whistle which has been created with the support of healthcare provider Simplyhealth and doubles as a working barbeque and large fire pit. Tuazon’s sculpture, playing with the tradition of architectural follies in landscape parks, will host a community barbeque, catered by The Cowshed.

Download the exhibition guide here.

Download the family guide here.

Exhibition Tours
Every Saturday 2pm, free
Free tours of the galleries are led by members of staff and invited guests.

Location of offsite projects:


The Promise is organised in association with PARADISE, a project by Trust New Art Bristol, National Trust. The commission at Leigh Woods is a joint project by Arnolfini and Trust New Art Bristol, National Trust.

Supported by Simplyhealth – Art in the Public Realm Commission Award, The Henry Moore Foundation, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, The Gane Trust and The Ken Stradling Collection, Amalgam Modelmaking, and Creative New Zealand.