Contemporary Artists and Prisoners Collaborate on Unique Artworks in Exhibition and Online Auction

Art Daily
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Ai Weiwei, Odyssey in Quilting, 2019. Quilt. Dimensions: 200 by 240cm. Cotton, printed with embroidery embellishments. Courtesy Fine Cell Work © Ai Weiwei.
Ai Weiwei, Odyssey in Quilting, 2019. Quilt. Dimensions: 200 by 240cm. Cotton, printed with embroidery embellishments. Courtesy Fine Cell Work © Ai Weiwei.

LONDON.-Fine Cell Work announces Human Touch, a ground-breaking collaboration between international contemporary artists and stitchers working in prisons, trained by this leading charity and social enterprise. Artists and stitchers have worked to create unique works of art which are on show at Sotheby’s London galleries from 26 February until 3 March 2020, and offered for sale by Fine Cell Work. All proceeds go to Fine Cell Work, working to enable prisoners across Britain to build fulfilling and crime free-lives by training them to do high-quality creative needlework, and thereby helping to foster hope, discipline and self-esteem.

The participating artists are: Ai Weiwei, Idris Khan, Carolina Mazzolari, Annie Morris, Cornelia Parker, Bob and Roberta Smith, Wolfgang Tillmans, Francis Upritchard. Working with each artist’s narrative, highly skilled prisoners based around the UK have stitched the works.

Pieces include Odyssey in Quilting, an intricate large-scale hand-embroidered quilt designed by Ai Weiwei, measuring 200 x 240 cm which depicts the transition of migrants across the globe. In close collaboration with the artist, 13 stitchers in eight prisons have brought this project to life. Ai Weiwei’s backing of the charity’s transformative work with prisoners builds on his ongoing political activism and passionate support for human rights.

Via a personal letter to the prisoners after months of meticulous work, Ai Weiwei concluded the collaboration by saying:

“Finally, you reach the point when I would say it is perfect. There is so much language in between, it does not show on the work the communication, trust and understanding of the process and joy of making pieces like this. I think the final resulting piece is a beautiful art work.”

Stitcher Ben, who worked on five panels of the Ai Weiwei quilt said: “The sections took over 200 hours to complete. Being able to be part of this project has been an honour and an achievement for myself. For this piece of work to be allowed to be stitched by people who have their own battles and struggles truly shows what this piece is about.”

Stitcher Andrew, who stitched three panels of the quilt said: “Fine Cell Work has impacted my life in prison beyond measure. It has been a financial crutch… I have motivation and positive feelings having objectives to work towards, and spend my time productively making something of a difference for good in the world.”

Wolfgang Tillmans has chosen to recreate his No man is an island. No country by itself. EU campaign poster design as a large cushion. Measuring c. 84 by 59 cm, the intricate needlepoint on canvas has been completed by three stitchers.

Cornelia Parker presents a piece, Bitter/Sweet (verso) 2019, from her Opposites series, featuring intricate hand embroidery on linen. This follows her 2015 collaboration with Fine Cell Work when she created a monumental Magna Carta artwork, first shown at the British Library.

Idris Khan has produced Numbers, a hand sewn photograph 2019, a framed silkscreen fabric piece, stitched by a single prisoner.

Francis Upritchard has worked with a group of six stitchers on an ambitious paravent entitled The Artists 2019 that has been upholstered in Italian silk and embroidered.

Carolina Mazzolari’s hand embroidered piece Void was stitched in wool by both the artist and the prisoners. Annie Morris has produced an intricately embroidered chaise longue entitled Hope from A Thin Line.

Bob and Roberta Smith’s piece, Art Makes People Powerful is a colourful and large-scale framed artwork made using needlepoint.

All works are being sold by Fine Cell Work with offers invited over a guide price. Bidding opened online on 12 February 2020 at and closes on 3 March 2020.

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