Punk artworks for new Belfast exhibition space
Some of the most famous images of the punk era have gone on display at Belfast’s newest art gallery.
Ulster Presents is a custom-built exhibition space and part of the Ulster University’s new city centre campus.
Its first exhibition – Taking Liberties! – features the work of the famed punk provocateur Jamie Reid.
Reid is synonymous with The Sex Pistols after he created their iconic God Save the Queen logo in the 1970s.
The exhibition gathers Reid’s most iconoclastic protest work from that era onwards.
Taking Liberties! is part of Belfast International Arts Festival and features work designed to grab the public’s attention.
Spearheaded by Cian Smyth, Ulster Presents is another addition to the city’s Cathedral Quarter.
Mr Smyth says the gallery plans to present six shows a year from a mixture of international and local artists, many of whom will have graduated through Ulster’s art school.
“We just wanted to develop an audience for the visual arts, alongside the other galleries in the city of course. We always like to bring in somebody that might attract an audience that might not have been here before,” he said.
He said he had been trying to bring Reid’s work to the city for five years: “I obviously knew his work since I was a young person, I knew this really needs to be in Belfast.
“In his work you get to see over five, six decades, how the visual aesthetic is sort of developed, and you actually see where a lot of protest language comes from. People in protest marches, a lot of their visual language is partly influenced by Jamie I think.”
Reid’s work is famous for its ransom-note style and political activism.
He has highlighted campaigns including the anti-Poll Tax protests, Russian-activists Pussy Riot, the Criminal Justice Bill and Clause 28.
He perhaps most famously caused controversy when designing artwork for The Sex Pistols album God Save The Queen by taking a Cecil Beaton photograph of Queen Elizabeth II and adding safety pins and swastikas to her eyes.
Originally issued during 1977’s Silver Jubilee, the artwork and song were subsequently banned by the BBC. It officially reached number two in the UK charts, despite this, and is believed by some to have been the “real” number one, allegedly outselling its nearest rival by two to one.
Attitudes towards the anti-Monarchy work have since changed with The Observer newspaper in 2007 branding it “the single most iconic image of the punk era”.
Looking towards the future of the gallery, and the Belfast arts scene overall, Mr Smyth said: “At the moment, I’m doing stuff next year around art and activism. It’s such a small community, around this area in particular, that it’s hard not to be a part of that.
“There’s like a whole new demographic, a younger demographic. Back in the day, a lot of them would have left, they certainly wouldn’t have existed in central Belfast, it’s nice to be part of whatever that’s becoming,” he added.
Taking Liberties! exhibition is in the new building of Ulster University, Belfast Campus, until 26 November.