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New Contemporaries, one of the longest running and most well-recognised platforms for emerging artists in the UK, has only presented a separate and specific ‘live show’ for installation, film and performance work twice in its 70 year history. Curated by Nottingham Trent University PhD candidate Emily Gray, Not a Live Show presents an exploration into this little known and barely documented history.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2019, New Contemporaries’ history tracks the birth of the Arts Council, the explosion of arts education and a turn to youth culture, as well as the major developments in artistic practice. It has helped launch the careers of innumerable artists, including those whose meteoric rise have come to epitomise the British art scene. Participants include renowned figures such as David Hockney, Bruce McLean, Anthony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Gillian Wearing and Tacita Dean, to name a few.

Designated as ‘third area’ art, the inclusion of this work within New Contemporaries was hard fought for. Hosted at ACME Studios in Covent Garden and the London Film Co-Op, Camden, this was at the epicentre of experimental and performative activity during this period. Many of the concerns raised within these works remain central to student discourse today. Subsequently folded into the main exhibition, the expanded field of artistic practice continues to be a challenge within the New Contemporaries format today.


Emily Gay is a current PhD candidate at NTU examining ‘Archives and Contemporaneity’ in partnership with Bloomberg New Contemporaries. Previously she has managed artist residency programmes and exhibitions in the US and Scotland, before completing her Masters in Curatorial Practice at Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow University.