Space Shifters: An introduction from Senior Curator Cliff Lauson

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Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 11:32

Hayward Gallery Senior Curator Dr Cliff Lauson introduces our new exhibition, Space Shifters.

Hayward Gallery’s brutalist architecture allows us to showcase some of the most ambitious, immersive and exciting art from around the world. For the third and final show of the Hayward Gallery’s reopening year – following a two year renovation – we wanted to create an exhibition that really engaged with and responded to the unique spaces of the building.

Space Shifters is a group exhibition of sculptures and installations about space and how we perceive it. Many of the artworks in this exhibition act a bit like lenses – they allow us to look both through as well as at them and in the process alter the way that we perceive our surroundings.

The exhibition features the work of 20 artists from around the world and spans 50 years. The earliest works in this exhibition, which date from the 1960s, were made in and around Los Angeles during a period when artists including Helen Pashgian, Robert Irwin and Fred Eversley were beginning to experiment with the optical effects of newly available industrial materials, as well as with glass and light.

Space Shifters

Richard Wilson, No Numbers, 2013. Installation view, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo © and courtesy the artist. Photo: Eiji Ina


To many of these artists, the viewer’s experience and the act of perception was more important than anything else. In order to maximise this focus on experience, many artists took a correspondingly minimal approach to their materials, producing sculptures and installations that are elegant, mysterious and perceptually ‘light’ – even if they do weigh many tonnes, like De Wain Valentine’s monumental Gray Column (1975–76).

As well as showcasing rarely seen historical artworks from the ‘Light and Space’ movement, this exhibition also traces the concerns of this earlier generation of artists through to the present day. In Space Shifters, Jeppe Hein, Yayoi Kusama and Anish Kapoor all present spectacular and innovative artworks that make use of reflective surfaces, while artists such as Roni Horn and Ann Veronica Janssens explore the subtle and alluring properties of glass.

To many of these artists, the viewer’s experience and the act of perception was more important than anything else.

A number of installations and exciting new commissions perform their perceptual feats in relation to the architecture of the Hayward Gallery. Daniel Steegmann Mangrané and Leonor Antunes respond to the building’s striking concrete staircases and roof lights, while in his epic installation 20:50 (1987) Richard Wilson takes over the entirety of one of the upper galleries. In these works, the sculptural nature of the building is in dialogue with the sculptural nature of the artworks.

I have spent the past year traveling to see these perception-altering artworks and speaking to the artists who have made them, and I can tell you that the experience of the sculptures and installations in this exhibition cannot be captured on either the printed page or on a screen. This is what makes an exhibition of this kind so exciting – the opportunity to see all of these amazing artworks first-hand under one (newly renovated) roof.


Space Shifters is at Hayward Gallery from Wednesday 26 September until Sunday 6 January 2019. Hayward Gallery is open 11am – 7pm every day, except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed, with late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm.

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Header image: Larry Bell (left) with Dr Cliff Lauson, at the artist's studio in Taos, New Mexico, USA