Coup for Baltic as Yoko Ono signs up

THE Yoko Ono exhibition at the Baltic will be her biggest UK show for a decade – and the artist will be on hand to open it.

Yoko Ono

THE Yoko Ono exhibition at the Baltic will be her biggest UK show for a decade – and the artist will be on hand to open it.

The Journal can today reveal details of the exhibition, long in the planning, which suggest it will be one of the hottest attractions at the Gateshead centre for contemporary art since it opened six years ago.

Baltic curator Alessandro Vincentelli said the exhibition was a coup for the venue.

It will take over the two biggest gallery spaces – levels three and four – at the Baltic and also include some artworks to be installed outside.

He said: “There hasn’t been a big Yoko Ono exhibition for 10 years in this country and this is it. We are excited because we have been negotiating all summer. It is great to get it signed off.

“It is a major retrospective featuring some 50 works, some of them dating back to the early 1960s, before she met John Lennon.

“There will be pieces coming from Brazil, New York and Italy.”

The exhibition, called Between The Sky and my Head, is a cost-sharing collaboration with a German gallery, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld.

The work will be displayed there first before it is reconfigured for the Gateshead exhibition later in the year.

Tokyo-born Yoko Ono, who is now 75, is one of the pioneers of conceptual art. She was already well known in art circles when she met John Lennon while setting up an exhibition in London in 1966. They were married three years later.

Famously they campaigned for peace by taking to their bed in front of newspaper cameras. She is still campaigning 28 years after John Lennon’s murder by deranged fan Mark David Chapman.

Mr Vincentelli said he recently travelled to Iceland where the artist has installed an elaborate Imagine Peace Tower, comprising a beam of light to be lit each year between Lennon’s birthday on October 9 and the anniversary of his death on December 8.

The memorial to Lennon also incorporates thousand of wishes gathered by the artists from members of the public in another project called Wish Tree.

Wish Trees will be installed near Baltic during the North East exhibition, from December 14 to March 15, 2009, with people invited to decorate them with pieces of paper bearing their hopes and dreams.

These will be gathered at the end of the exhibition and sent to Iceland to become part of the Imagine Peace Tower memorial.

Mr Vincentelli said Yoko Ono’s interest in collaborative art would be much in evidence.

One work, called My Mommy is Beautiful, will invite Baltic visitors to attach photographs or thoughts about their mothers to blank canvases. When these are full, they will be sent to the artist.

Famous early works to be displayed on Tyneside include Play It By Trust, a marble chess set comprising only white pieces, rendering combat impossible.

Another, called Morning Beams, comprises cords suspended from ceiling to ground to look like the sun’s rays.

The exhibition marks the climax of a busy autumn for Baltic, which is waiting to welcome its fourth director, Godfrey Worsdale, in November.

A series of new exhibitions is due to open next week, including one by Steve McQueen, the Turner Prize-winning British artist and film-maker whose film Hunger, about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, won the major Caméra d’Or award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

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