Keith Piper (artist)

Keith Piper
Born1960 (age 60–61)
EducationTrent Polytechnic; Royal College of Art
Known forBLK Art Group

Keith Piper (born 1960)[1] is a leading contemporary British artist, curator, critic and academic. He was a founder member of the groundbreaking BLK Art Group, an association of black British art students, mostly based in the West Midlands region of the UK.[2]

Early life and education[]

Piper was born in Malta to a working-class family of African-Caribbean heritage and raised in and around Birmingham.[3] He was first attracted to art as a response to the industrialised, decaying landscape of his youth. Quoted in his monograph Relocating the Remains he recalls being "interested in the aesthetics of peeling paint, rust and dereliction and the multi-layered look of fly posters when they become torn off".[3] Piper went on to attend Trent Polytechnic, where he gained his B.A.(Hons) in Fine Art in 1983, before graduating with a master's degree in Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art in London.[3]

Career and works[]

The Black Assassin Saints (1982), Acrylic on stitched unstretched canvas.

Although Piper’s early and student work made use of traditional fine art media such as paint and canvas (such as The Body Politic, 1983),[3] from the late 1980s he became primarily associated with technically innovative work that explored multi-media elements such as computer software, websites, tape/slide, sound and video within an installation-based practice.[4]

Piper first came to public attention when, in 1982, while still a student, he joined Eddie Chambers, the late Donald Rodney and Marlene Smith in what came to be known as the BLK Art Group. Their politically forthright exhibition The Pan-Afrikan Connection garnered media attention as it toured to Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham; King Street Gallery in Bristol; and The Africa Centre in London. In 1983-84 a second touring exhibition, The BLK Art Group, was held at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, Battersea Arts Centre in London and, again, the Africa Centre.[5]

However, the group's critique of institutional racism in and beyond Britain's art world[6] became a part of the impetus that led to The Other Story, a seminal survey of African and Asian artists at London's Hayward Gallery in 1989 as well as the founding of the Association of Black Photographers and the establishment of Iniva, the Institute of International Visual Arts – some of which have exhibited Piper's work.[7] His photography was recognised in the 1992 survey by Ten.8 magazine[8]

Piper continued to practise throughout the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, exhibiting work in prestigious galleries and museums around the world, including, in 1999, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York,[9] in 2007, the Victoria and Albert Museum,[10] and, in 2012, Migrations at Tate Britain.[11] Examples of Piper's work are held in numerous public collections, including the Arts Council Collection[12] Tate[13] and the Manchester Art Gallery.[14]

In 2002, Keith Piper was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts at Wolverhampton University[15] and has taught for several years as a Reader in Fine Art at London's Middlesex University.[16]

In 2015–16, Piper's work (You Are Now Entering) Mau Mau Country (1983) was featured in the six-month exhibition No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990 held at the City of London's Guildhall Art Gallery.[17][18][19]

In 2017, Iniva, in partnership with Bluecoat, presented a solo exhibition of Piper’s work. Entitled ‘Unearthing the Bankers Bones’, it featured large-scale painting, installation and digital works that address anxieties about the impacts of globalisation. Lending its title to the exhibition, the centrepiece of the show is a 70th Anniversary Commission for the Arts Council Collection with Iniva and Bluecoat, consisting of three synchronised high definition video projections, which depict a narrative of economic and social collapse. This was Piper’s first monographic show since the retrospective ‘Relocating the Remains,’ produced by Iniva in 1997.[20]

Multimedia installations and projects[]


  1. ^ Meigh-Andrews, C., 2013. A History of Video Art, pp. 291. A&C Black.
  2. ^ Chambers, E., 2011. Things Done Change: The Cultural Politics of Recent Black Artists in Britain, Rodopi.
  3. ^ a b c d Chandler, David, & Kobena Mercer, 1997. "Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains", Institute of International Visual Arts (InVA).
  4. ^ White, M., 2006. The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship, MIT Press.
  5. ^ Pauline de Souza, "Rodney, Donald Gladstone (1961–1998)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  6. ^ Owusu, K., 2000. Black British Culture and Society: A Text Reader, Psychology Press.
  7. ^ "Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains". Iniva.
  8. ^ 'Critical Decade: Black British Photography in the 80s', Ten.8 vol. 2, no. 3, 1992
  9. ^ "'Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains'". New Museum Digital Archive.
  10. ^ Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (9 February 2007). "Uncomfortable Truths Review". The Independent.
  11. ^ Jonathan Jones (31 January 2012). "Migrations exhibition review". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Art UK - National Collection page".
  13. ^ "Tate's artist page for Keith Piper".
  14. ^ "Manchester Art Gallery page for Keith Piper".
  15. ^ "Keith Piper doctorate page at Wolverhampton University". Archived from the original on 24 March 2014.
  16. ^ "Keith Piper bio page at Middlesex University". Archived from the original on 24 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Sonia Boyce & Keith Piper featured artists in No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990", ADRI, Middlesex University London.
  18. ^ Emily Labhart, "No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990", 27 September 2015.
  19. ^ Lola Okolosie, "We are here because you were there: a retrospective of black British art", New Humanist, 7 December 2015.
  20. ^ Keith Piper Biography"Peoples Directory, Iniva".

External links[]