WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE exhibition announced at Ulster Museum

Ground-breaking exhibition of Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary artist, Willie Doherty, exploring the theme of borders.

WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE, a major international exhibition of the work of Willie Doherty (Derry, 1959), twice Turner Prize nominee and Northern Ireland’s foremost contemporary artist, opens at the Ulster Museum  4 June.

One of the most ambitious exhibitions of Willie Doherty’s work to date, WHERE offers an overview of his career in photography and time-based media. Beginning in the 1980s, the exhibition presents an extensive series of photographic and video work and offers an important opportunity to see Doherty’s work in depth. In the aftermath of Brexit, and in the centenary year of the partition of Ireland, the exhibition focuses on the theme of borders, both real and imagined, a subject which has dominated Doherty’s practice for over four decades.

The exhibition was curated in partnership with Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, Italy and includes a new video installation Where/Dove, commissioned for the exhibition (dove is the Italian for where). Where/Dove uses the experience of the Irish border as a point of reference in understanding some of the divisive issues of national identity, nativism and exclusion. Recently Doherty has extended his gaze to contested geographical areas outside Northern Ireland, visiting the border between the United States and Mexico. Collectively, the works in the exhibition reveal the numerous complex political, social and psychological implications of borders and challenge the viewer to reconsider the value and meaning of these fault-lines.

Part of National Museums NI’s 100 Years Forward programme, WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE is made all the more significant as it arrives in Northern Ireland at a point in history when the significance of borders is particularly topical. Locally, the United Kingdom has left the European Union and we are marking the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and creation of Northern Ireland, but also on a global level, borders have become a focus of discussion in this era of migrations and global pandemic.

WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE is curated by Anne Stewart of National Museums NI and Daniele De Luigi of Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, produced with support from the British Council and in collaboration with Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, and Alexander and Bonin, New York and was previously displayed in Modena, Italy as part of the British Council’s UK/Italy Season.

Anne Stewart, Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI said: “As with every exhibition we host here at Ulster Museum, WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE encourages new ways of thinking. It offers our visitors the opportunity to question their own perspective on and understanding of borders, both locally and globally, and borders physical and imagined. 

“The work of Willie Doherty has rarely been exhibited on this scale before and many of the works are being shown in Northern Ireland for the first time.  So we at Ulster Museum are very proud to support this retrospective. It is with immense subtlety that Doherty addresses subjects which touch on themes such as conflict and the fault-lines, both real and perceived, which divide individuals and communities.

“We are delighted that by collaborating with Italy’s Fondazione Modena Arti Visive to curate this exhibition, we could extend its reach to an international audience. WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE explores the theme of borders which certainly will add to its appeal and relevancy in this year as we mark the centenaries of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland, and more globally with migration, the pandemic, Brexit and Trump’s presidential legacy which continue to be major discussion points.”

Commenting on launch of WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE at Ulster Museum, the artist, Willie Doherty said: “I am honoured to present my work at Ulster Museum, Belfast, as part of a dynamic programme of events that look back at the Partition of Ireland and forward to a shared future. Borders are points of transition, evoking a sense of something inherently unstable, changing, and unfixed. Borders also present the opportunity for positive change, for recognition of other perspectives, for compassion and understanding in the face of adversity and fear.”

The WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with texts by co-curators Anne Stewart and Daniele De Luigi and art critic Declan Long, and is available to purchase at Ulster Museum. 

WILLIE DOHERTY WHERE is on show at Ulster Museum from 4 June until 12 September. Pre-booking online is advised. For more information and to book visit nmni.com.