Towner Art Gallery pulls off an arts coup by acquiring two great movies

Omer Fast's film 5000 Feet Is The Best SUS-160330-123719001
Omer Fast's film 5000 Feet Is The Best SUS-160330-123719001

Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves (2010), a film inspired by the cockle-pickers tragedy in Morecambe Bay in 2004, has been jointly acquired by the Towner Art Gallery and Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery through the Art Fund’s Moving Image Fund for Museums.

One of the first works to be acquired through the fund, it is the first time that a film by Isaac Julien has been bought for a public collection outside London.

Julien said: “I am deeply honoured that Ten Thousand Waves is the first work to be acquired by this important initiative of the Art Fund.

“Ten Thousand Waves is a piece that began its life in the North of England and its homecoming is incredibly meaningful to me.

“The work has been collected by museums and collections the world over and its acquisition in England, and even more significantly outside of London, shows the dedication that the Art Fund has towards the conservation of moving image works and their democratisation to wider audiences.”

Towner and the Whitworth are the first recipients of the Moving Image Fund, which the Art Fund launched in September 2015 to ensure that major artist’s film and video works are acquired for public collections.

Towner has also acquired Omer Fast’s 5000 Feet Is The Best (2011), a 30-minute film that weaves together a former drone operator’s account of his life and work along with scenes depicting crimes in and around Las Vegas. On camera, the drone operator agrees to discuss the technical aspects of his job and daily routine. Off camera he briefly described recurring incidents in which the unmanned plane fired at both militants and civilians — and the psychological difficulties he experienced as a result.

The work is a joint acquisition between Towner through the Moving Image Fund for Museums, and the Imperial War Museum.

Fast said: “I am very pleased that 5,000 Feet Is The Best will now be represented in UK public collections and cannot think of more appropriate homes than Towner Art Gallery and the Imperial War Museum.

The work was previously presented at the Imperial War Museum and this is a wonderful opportunity to reach a broader audience.

I feel very privileged to have my work acquired through this special scheme, and I look forward to hearing more how about it is received by visitors in Manchester, Eastbourne and beyond.”

This investment in major acquisitions for collections outside the capital comes at a time when there is widespread concern about the impact that local authority settlements will have on 94 per cent of UK museums.

The initiative is giving £200,000 each to Towner and Whitworth galleries to collect artists’ film and video.

Towner will be presenting Ten Thousand Waves as an installation in the Gallery from 23 July to 2 October 2016, and 5000 Feet is the Best will be shown in 2018.

Emma Morris, executive director of the Towner Art Gallery, said: “We are delighted to have these two incredible works in our public collection and would like to thank the Art Fund, Thomas Dane Gallery, Isaac Julien, Omer Fast and their galleries for supporting these acquisitions.

“We have recently been awarded funding from Arts Council England to build a small cinema on our ground floor.

“This, along with the Moving Image Fund, enables us to position Towner as the leading venue in the South East for artists’ moving image.”

Ten Thousand Waves and 5000 Feet Is The Best join the gallery’s growing collection of works that includes films by artists Joao Penalava, Yael Bartana, Ori Gersht, Tacita Dean and Adam Chodzko.

In recent years Towner has collaborated with many artists working in film and moving image including Willie Doherty, Kelly Richardson and John Skoog, and in April opens the first survey show of moving image work by Melanie Manchot.