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FAQs and curatorial statement

Simple in its design, A Modest Show will present artists as fare, let us eat Manchester’s artists.


In the period running up to and beyond 2022 life imitated art, an incredulous time, a time of fake truths, lampooned leaders and a polarised media elite, no satire could justify such a time, or so it felt.

What good can a survey show of British artists do to alleviate this? Much, it is hoped. The curatorial vision and roster of artists selected for the Hayward British Art Show 9 would have us ponder the most pressing issues of our age.  From May to October 2022, while Manchester hosts BAS9, what can this city offer? What can the artists working here give us?
What they always have . . . their flesh.


A menu instead of a map, a main course instead of an exhibition, and a seating plan as interpretation. A chopping block as studio, a kitchen as gallery and restaurants as museums; a feast of artists.  Proclaiming artist sustenance, the best cuts and ‘Publick’ nourishment...

The ultimate in hospitality.

Nat Pitt, Division of Labour, Curator of A Modest Show



FAQs  / Press

Who are you? Who is organising this show? Who is involved so far?

Following an initial approach (pre-pandemic 2020) from the main hosting venues for ideas supporting artist led activity during the Hayward’s British Art Show (BAS09) in Manchester (originally timed for autumn 2020), three large studio providers came together to discuss an artist-centred programme that would engage and celebrate the wider artist community. Those providers were Paradise Works, Islington Mill and Rogue Studios, who in turn appointed independent curator Nat Pitt (Division of Labour gallery) and producer Alex Zawadzki (Second Act Gallery) to oversee a Greater Manchester wide programme of events under the umbrella of a multi-venue ‘show’ – entitled ‘A Modest Show’ (see curatorial statement). The project is funded by Arts Council England and GMCA Greater Manchester Combined Authority.


What are the ideas behind A Modest Show based on?

The title of the event, A Modest Show, is a take on Jonathan Swift’s 1729 satirical essay A Modest Proposal which suggested that as a solution to their economic plight, the impoverished, in Ireland should sell their children as food to the rich. Pitt’s theme is a combined response to the curatorial themes of BAS9 (the role of art and artists in highlighting the global issues of our age, what can artists offer these debates / do? And a satirical answer to what Greater Manchester artists can offer: their bodies as food, their work, their labour) and to the concerns of the studio groups and artists initially consulted who agreed to come together as one artist community. (post COVID isolation) To be seen and to explore ways to drive up audience and professional impacts for Greater Manchester artists by working in collaboration with BAS9 venue hosts. The proposed programme structure developed from this has three interrelated strands across a range of spaces; artist led, partner venues and public realm.

    1. artistic programme (micro-commissions, exhibitions – new & existing work, happenings)

    2. hospitality & events (networking events, commissions & performances)

    3. professional development programme (mentoring, targeted visits, relationship development)

If I/we submit a Micro-Commission proposal, do I/we have to have a venue for our project?

No, you don’t have to have a venue but we would like you consider what type of space your project would occupy, we welcome public realm projects, performances and events as well as exhibition ideas – we are looking to include a variety of artistic and hospitality-based projects and events, both indoors and outside and importantly in all the boroughs of Greater Manchester. We encourage you to imagine unusual ideas in alternative sites or site-specific ideas! If you do have a venue be sure to include this information in your application and consider the duration from May to November and how this might work. (Proposals are now closed)


Why have this event?

British Art Show (BAS9) has been seen as a barometer of artistic practice, a survey show which brings artists together every five years in a touring group show. It brings with it new audiences and visitors from outside the host cities and is therefore a moment of opportunity for artists living and working in the city to extend their reach and networks.

What are the aims of A Modest Show?


To facilitate and fasten digestion A Flambé Buffet

• Celebrate the vitality, invention and critical mass of our artist community in Greater Manchester on the back of a high profile, national event in BAS9 and working closely with artist-led spaces, studios and collectives in a steering group and wider advisory panel.


Share the Vegetables “Vandykey ZIG-ZAG styley”

• Share press & marketing approaches with BAS9 venues working through a shared PR expert to ensure coherent messaging and a wider reach to professional stakeholders and press. Finalise artistic programme for sharing with PR expert.


A Modest Recipe for A Modest Show  • Devise a thematic curatorial rationale, one over-arching direction for programme, representative of artists and art spaces in Greater Manchester and with a nod to BAS9 ‘of the now’ but flexible enough to be inclusive of all practices or any subject matter including counter matter. Allow for different positions within the artist led, for those who want to attract audiences to their spaces and those who wish to be more centrally or publicly platformed.


MISE EN PLACE (prep)  • Discover and platform new diverse talent across Greater Manchester. Take an outward facing approach, reflective of the ways in which the Greater Manchester artist community works, and include artists from outside Greater Manchester, some based internationally. Create opportunities to participate and share ideas, artworks, and performances for all.


Zest and Dariole (see Aim 1). • Make an impact with extraordinary experiences on first day/night, first week and naturally A Last Supper.


Horns, regulars, Mr. Chicken Salad Iced Tea No Lemon, Early Bird Specials and Doggy Bags

• Develop new audiences for Greater Manchester (GM) artists’ work & spaces including new local audiences across GM. To include all Greater Manchester boroughs in exhibition and artist distribution. To ensure ‘passer-by’ visibility for wider non-arts audiences in the public realm.

Brigade de cuisine • Programme targeted professional visits to artists studios across Greater Manchester with potential to generate new relationships and future opportunities for artists. Add to this impact via a hospitality event programme in and outside artist spaces across GM (including main venue spaces) focused on targeted guests and one off, distinct experiences … and [dis]courses, to bring curators, collectors, and specialist audiences into extended and expansive conversation with GM artists. Examples include to also work around or within the main BAS09 spaces e.g. introductions at their related hospitality events.

Escuelerie and proud- bring in the Chef de Partie • Strengthen sectoral & peer (particularly inter-borough) relationships among the artist led and co-design learning and legacy with institutional and non-institutional partners including The Manchester Contemporary as a core partner.


‘We will use a Dry Cook’s Measure like my mother had in the pantry’ • Develop efficiencies to balance inclusivity with the realities of a finite budget – achieve this by a mix of curated programme and open call, ensuring elements are distinct within the programme as a whole (e.g. across a range of presentation modes/practice; activity at one location not duplicating activity at another; events not overlapping but instead diarised efficiently) and partnering artist led or focused activity already planned as well as drawing on existing artwork.


Nouvelle Fair share Fair. Breaking Bread • A Modest Show will be bookended between The Manchester Contemporary in November 2021 and November 2022. The first edition in 2021 will act as an audience development opportunity to raise awareness of the project.

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