The Great Banana Crises – an interdisciplinary arts event above a pub in Derbyshire, UK – celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow with an exhibition that seeks to exhibit some of Europe’s most visceral and stimulating works. We speak to Lyn Bannister, co-curator of ArtLounge, who conceive and host the regular events.
How did you go about selecting the pieces for tomorrow’s event? Do you curate ArtLounge’s events alone or are you part of a panel of judges?
Yeah, there are three of us who run it and select the works. Firstly, we go through the ones sent to us in emails, then when we go about getting the pieces on the premises, and finally decide where they actually go in the building.
So how many pieces are you accepting for the exhibition?
In terms of pieces on the wall, there are usually between 25 and 40, and about 60 pieces come in in total. We’re not fussy about the mediums we exhibit at all – if we can fit it in, it’ll go. The bar is open to the public, so it has to work in the space, which can be restricting at times. In general though, we put on anything we think we can get on the walls or on the plinths, or even hang from the ceiling. If it’s good enough, we’ll make it work.
How does the space lend itself to the type of exhibitions you put on?
Well, it’s not the biggest space, but it’s not small either. I think it seats around 20 to 30 people. It was originally decorated as an arts space, funnily enough – so it’s coloured in a very neutral way, just white walls – before being converted into an Indian restaurant. There’s no colour in there and no decoration at all except the art, which completely changes the feel of the place every time there’s an exhibition. I think people are surprised with just how well it works when they come in. It’s quite a quirkily-shaped place, too – with eight different wall spaces in total. You can almost curate each wall separately – it all works really well.
What are you looking for from winning submissions?
Anything original, striking, challenging or thought-provoking. This exhibition will mark our first year anniversary – and you can see on our online gallery that in our early days we ran landscapes and traditional portraits. But as the quantity and quality submissions increased, we have become a lot more adventurous with selections, which is where we wanted it to go from the start. We just need as much exposure as possible, so that we get the best work we can in.
So what’s your background, and how and when did ArtLounge start?
I’m an artist, and am friends with the person who owns the space. Downstairs is a typical country pub, and when the Indian restaurant moved out upstairs, me and the owner – who is a graphic artist – started talking about using the empty space constructively. We both agreed that there’s really nothing like this kind of thing in New Mills, and there was a tremendous need for a place where artists could go to exhibit and network. We wanted to establish it as a place where local people could be confronted with contemporary art and not be frightened off by it. So he agreed to go ahead with the project with me, and gave me six weeks to find some art for it. It’s grown so much from there, with submissions coming in from all over the place: tomorrow’s exhibition hosts work from Paris, London, Devon, Scotland and so on.
Is there anything exciting planned for the event?
Well, the events have become set in the local calendar now – people look forward to them. Artists come along to the opening show mainly to network. And more often than not, we sell a couple of pieces.
Why is it called The Great Banana Crises?
I don’t like to be restricted by theme, so we came up with a title that people can’t possibly pigeonhole or prejudge. We just wanted something that was just as eye-catching and intriguing as the art we run.
The Great Banana Crises runs until February 5th
Words: Jack Mills