Michael Forbes has exhibited nationally and internationally, exhibitions including; Reformation at Yinka Shonibares’ Guest Projects, the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and CPT:Time, History and Memory, Gallatin Galleries, New York
Along side his artistic practice, Forbes has curated many exhibitions and supports artists professional development. Graduating from Nottingham Trent University with a BA(Hons) in Photography, whilst playing a leading role in developing the New Art Exchange, and its early programme. Forbes is a founding member and Chair of the board of trustees at Primary, an artist studio complex in Nottingham, where he holds a studio.
Primary is a contemporary visual arts organisation, which supports artistic research and production through a public programme, provision of studio and workshop spaces. In 2018 Primary joined the Arts Council England National Portfolio. In 2020 with support from Arts Council England, Nottingham City Council Primary purchased the freehold of the building.
2020 Tomorrow: London, White Cube, Gallery, London.
2018 Reformation - Guest Project. Group show - Nadim Chaudry, Michael Forbes, Barbara Walker
2018 Diaspora Pavilion I Venice to Wolverhampton - Wolverhampton Art Gallery
2017 Venice - Diaspora Platform - International Curators Forum, at Palazzo Santa Marina
2013 - 2020 Artist Curator Design - Forbes Projects
2003 - 2020 Voluntary work - Chair of the board of Trustees and Directors of Primary, Nottingham
1999 - 2001 Visual Arts Officer, EMACA (East Midlands African Caribbean Arts), Nottingham Art
2018 - 2020 Royal College of Art, MA Sculpture
1995 - 1998 Nottingham Trent University, BA (Hons) Photography
Residency / Mentoring / Awards (selected)
2018 / 20 Rose Finn-Kelcey Scholarship - Royal College of Art MA Sculpture
2018 Nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Artist Awards
2016 - 2018 The International Curators Forum (ICF), with University of the Arts London (UAL)
2011 International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York
Contemporary racial politics, migration, blackness and whiteness are central to the work Forbes makes; in relation to universal debates on wealth, history and religion; he works with sculpture, installations, photography, animation and digital media to externalise the debates above.
Gold Christ for Gold People & Black Christ for Black People is informed by ongoing issues of poverty and conflict in Africa, which has contributed to the increase of mass migration to other parts of the world, particularly Europe. Unfortunately, the option to get to Europe has caused unprecedented numbers of deaths crossing the Mediterranean. Black visibility, invisibility and the wider impact of religion also inform how the work has developed.
An El Dorado of 512.6 million is an animation exploring migration to Europe. The exploitation of African migrants by people traffickers has caused an unprecedented number of deaths crossing the Mediterranean in inadequate boats and vessels. The migrants are lured to Europe by a fake notion of the streets being paved with gold; but the lucky ones that successfully make it to Europe are left to survive in the best way they can, which for some is selling counterfeit designer goods on the streets.
Forbes developed Mapping the Black Body in response to being asked “why the black body” in relation to sketches of proposed new work at RCA. He used mind mapping software to draw out his thoughts relating to contemporary and historical experiences of the black body. In the work Forbes acknowledge historical facts, whilst recognising what is projected on the black body from all sectors of society, which may reflect individual experiences, prejudices, insecurities and fears.
In Shop... Selling the Ontology of Whiteness, Forbes started by exploring the visual representation of fashion and handbags as desired objects. In documenting the shop windows in Venice, Rome, Naples and London Forbes expands his research into the relationship of the ontology of whiteness and how it is being promoted through the shop windows and the use of the mannequins. Forbes developed abstract text layers for the work, aligning the work to contemporary advertising and creating a genuine link to the shop windows and racial political discourse of today.
Image: Auto Portrait after Rembrandt, a black man in a wig and baseball cap
Auto Portrait - After Rembrandt a Black man in a wig and baseball cap
For this work Forbes developed a series of self portraits using material purchased for his Masquerade sculptural work; he places himself in the centre of the images, thereby making a direct link between him and the work he makes. The image of a Black male
symbolises many things beyond the individual, which he explores through: the gaze, wigs, baseball caps, sexuality and adornment.
Forbes constructed the image to challenge the viewer by consciously presenting a non-smiling and non-gesturing face, thereby allowing for many readings of the image.
It All Matters... They Will Fall — Art space somewhere in Nevada
Shop... Selling the Ontology of Whiteness
12 lightboxes, with animated text layered, which rotates over a photographic image
Gold Christ for Gold People & Black Christ for Black People
An installation, includes:
• Four suspended upside down Christ figures, with wigs attached to their faces.
• Two photographic / screen printed posters accompany the work, one highlighting the presence of CCTV and the other highlighting the ‘Danger of Death’
• Three Christ busts, with wigs attached to their faces on black plinths – on the top of the plinths with the bust are the separated arms and a book
• Three Christ figures leaning against a wall
An El Dorado of 512.6 million is an animation of 10 Christ figures floating over a golden sea, to an edited sound track of Skunk Anansie.
Forbes has worked with the 3D files used for the cast and mould of the Christ figures and 3D software to create the gold sea.
Minding the Black Body is a lightbox of an image using mind map office software, with pink text and lines on a black background
Medium:Forbes work presented in a Virtual Reality Gallery
Size:Digital 3D space.
In Collaboration with:
Blackness (the manifesto) — Lightbox size 1.2m x 1.5m
Medium:Photographic Lightbox and or Photographic print
Shop... Selling the Ontology of Whiteness
Forbes developed abstract text layers for the work, aligning the work to contemporary advertising and creating a genuine link to the shop windows and racial political discourse of today.
Shop… selling the ontology of whiteness
Carnival… beyond the glitz of the parade
The Metaphysics and Racial Politics of Blackness through the work of Kerry James Marshall
Medium:Pdf of three books ready for publication
Medium:Photographic and video images
In this Portfolio of Practice Forbes present eight bodies of intersecting work with images and text
1. About the Artist
2. Portfolio of Practice – summary
• Shop... Selling the Ontology of Whiteness
• Gold Christ for Gold People & Black Christ for Black People
• An El Dorado of 512.6 million
• 12 Stations of the Masquerade
• Minding the Black Body
• The Masquerade
• Auto Portrait - After Rembrandt
• Carnival... beyond the glitz of the parade
4. CV / résumé