Artspace was founded in the mid-1970s by a group of painters, sculptors and printmakers who sought out and administered affordable studio spaces for artists in Bristol. Working co-operatively, the collective was able to reduce costs by sharing space and equipment, and securing discounts through bulk purchasing art materials. 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the initial lease of Artspace’s first home, the McArthur’s Warehouse on the Harbourside. The Artspace artists converted and occupied this disused Victorian warehouse until 1998 when, due to the threat of increased rents and a proposed re-development of the site, the organisation moved to its current premises, a nearby former Brooke Bond tea packing factory, and changed its name to Spike Island. Today, Spike Island is an international art centre and one of Europe’s largest studio complexes.
To celebrate Artspace’s 40th anniversary, Spike Island presented an archival display of material selected from the recently catalogued records of Artspace held at the Bristol Record Office (BRO). Significant administrative documents were exhibited alongside letters, photographs, posters and slides showcasing the group’s diverse activities, including international exchanges, exhibitions and events.
A newly commissioned film directed by artist Kypros Kyprianou, weaving together archival and contemporary footage, from interviews with key figures in the development of Artspace, to footage of the industrial sites that Artspace repurposed, traced how we got ‘from there to here’ and revealed the people, places and wider socio-political situation in which Artspace was founded.