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Peter Brathwaite: Rediscovering Black Portraiture

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Peter Brathwaite – Rediscovering Black Portraiture
18 May 2024 – January 2025
Free Entry


During the first lockdown in 2020, with all his performances cancelled Bedford based baritone, artist, broadcaster and writer Peter Brathwaite began researching and reimagining more than 100 artworks featuring portraits of Black sitters, as part of the online #GettyMuseumChallenge to use household objects to restage famous paintings.


‘I began restaging Black portraits for the Getty Museum’s online COVID-19 lockdown challenge to re-create works of art using only what you had to hand at home.

My take on this challenge makes visible the often-silence Black lives pushed to the margins of Western art history. In these staged photographs I appear as both subject and object, recreating the pose in the historic picture. As an opera singer, I see each photographic re-staging as a performance; performances that riff on the stories of my own ancestors – both enslaved Africans and English enslavers in Barbados – and the Black figures who appear in portraits I choose to embody’.


The exhibition stretches across The Higgins: in the Victorian House are interventions of Caribbean dolls as well as new interpretation of objects already on display. In the Dressing Room are Peter’s reimagined artworks alongside personal reflections and in the Collectors Gallery is Peter’s recreation of ‘The Paston Treasure’.


Website - Paston Treasure PB


The seventeenth century painting depicts the treasures acquired during the Norfolk based Paston family’s travels including tropical fruit, exotic animals, priceless curiosities, and an exquisitely clothed Black man. Peter writes that the mans depiction ‘represents a process of being dehumanized twice over – first as a piece of property, and then again because this scene is so far removed from his actual reality’. Using his own belongings to recreate the painting, Peter asks what it means to take up space as a Black man as well as to open up a conversation on objects and subjects in paintings on display in museums.

A series of events will be held during the exhibition’s run. Keep an eye on the website for more details.


The exhibition is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.