Celebrating its 75th anniversary year, the Arts Council Collection is launching Right About Now, an exhibition featuring highlights from its recent contemporary art acquisitions, including a number of works presented publicly for the first time. Opening on Friday 3 December at Frieze’s new gallery space No.9 Cork Street, this free exhibition — the most extensive display of Arts Council Collection acquisitions to date — highlights a diverse selection of contemporary art, featuring 18 artists. From multi-part installations to painting and moving image, the works displayed joined the Collection in 2019–2021 and represent some of the best and most ambitious modern and contemporary British art.

Right About Now will bring 33 works together across two floors of No.9 Cork Street. Among the artworks on display, select highlights include Adam Farah’s I AM FREE (FREE AM I MIX), 2018. Displayed on the ground floor of the gallery, the work is a wall-sized poster featuring the artist wearing a t-shirt custom-printed with lyrics from the song ‘I Am Free’ by Mariah Carey. It represents an important influence in the artist’s life. The photograph has been digitally manipulated to express the desire to feel and be free enough to fly, while also being an ode to the power and life force of friendships.

Liv Preston’s sculpture DOG QUEST, 2020, depicts a dog’s head. Cast from a piece of graffiti found in an outbuilding at an abandoned slate mine in North Wales, this object considers the representation and consistent presence of dogs in human culture. The word ‘quest’ in the work’s title alludes to its method of production by a team assembled to document the graffiti, rendering it as something closer to a treasure or relic than simply a record of a surface.

Magda Stawarska-Beavan’s installation Bracka 40, 2020, examines the city of Łódź in the artist’s native Poland, providing glimpses of Jewish lives obliterated by the Nazi ghettoisation of the city during the Second World War. Her delicate panels of printed and hand-painted paper hang from the ceiling, depicting rooms where rituals of parting and death once took place. Images of a cemetery are accompanied by a soundscape of birdsong and traffic noise, illustrating how an important layer of the cultural fabric was torn from the landscape, never to be replaced or mended.

Of the 98 artworks acquired in 2019–2021, many of the remaining 65 not represented in Right About Now, are already on display or committed to loan in exhibitions across the UK and abroad, fulfilling the Arts Council Collection’s mission to bring art to every corner of the country through loans to museums, galleries, schools, hospitals, and other public institutions, as well as through its own touring exhibitions. Visitors to the dedicated Right About Now exhibition page on the Arts Council Collection website will be able to view details of these loans and where they can be seen in venues across the country including Cardiff, London, Penzance and Sunderland and The Hague in the Netherlands. Building on its National Partners Programme, which develops long-term collaborations with institutions across the country, the Arts Council Collection will continue to explore ways of connecting the Collection to reach new audiences and participants.

Established in 1946 as a national collection for the UK, today the Arts Council Collection cares for over 8,000 works by close to 2,200 artists. The Collection is managed by the Southbank Centre on behalf of Arts Council England, and is committed to supporting artists from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, most often at an early stage of their career, in order to reflect the rich, diverse culture of the UK.

Deborah Smith, Director of the Arts Council Collection, says: “We value the remarkable work that has built the Arts Council Collection and kept it in extraordinary condition during our 75 year history. Our mission now is to extend the impact of the Collection, so that it has a greater influence on more people: a greater impact on collection artists, on curators and partners, and on our audiences and participants across the UK. We are thrilled to present Right About Now at No.9 Cork Street as a celebration of our 75th anniversary year, and an opportunity to connect audiences with extraordinary British artists.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, says: “Throughout its history the Arts Council Collection has supported artists throughout the UK, often at a very early stage in their career, and has given people an opportunity to enjoy the best of British art in museums, galleries, schools and public places across the country. We’re delighted to mark its 75th anniversary by presenting these latest acquisitions, which are an exciting addition to the Collection and demonstrate the diversity of talent working across the country today.

Selvi May Akyildiz, Director, No.9 Cork Street, says: “Frieze is delighted to host the Arts Council Collection at No.9 Cork Street. The intention of our new space is to provide a platform for ambitious projects from all parts of the art world. Right About Now is an important part of our programme and a fitting way to celebrate 75 years of the Collection, representing some of the most exciting contemporary British art being made today.”

Right About Now features 18 artists: Edward Allington, Jonathan Baldock, Olivia Bax, Oliver Beer, Shezad Dawood, Adam Farah, Miranda Forrester, Ryan Gander, Patrick Hough, Duncan Newton, Roy Oxlade, Liv Preston, Prem Sahib, Magda Stawarska-Beavan, Rosa-Johan Uddoh, Caroline Walker, Alison Watt and Partou Zia.

For more information about Right About Now at No.9 Cork Street, visit the Arts Council Collections website here.