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UK premiere: Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken

“Daniel’s looks are fearless mashups of haute couture, salvage, religious paraphernalia, and club culture. He is one of the few originals of his generation.” Edward Enninful OBE, Editor British Vogue

“Daniel is very beautiful, big and impressive. To dress up and show himself around is a wonderful act of generosity. He always does good things.”  Dame Vivienne Westwood

(Imagery from Daniel Lismore's book 'Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.' Photo credit - Colin Douglas Gray, courtesy of SCAD)

Coventry City of Culture Trust and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum are delighted to present “Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken” by the Coventry born artist, designer and activist Daniel Lismore. This exhibition in his hometown is the first time that his work has gone on display in the UK. 

The exhibition features a major installation ‘An Army of My Life’, which takes inspiration from the Terracotta Army, and features 50 3D sculptures, each of which are modelled on the artist and including a cast of his face, manifestations of Lismore’s life living as sculpture.
The life-size (6’4”) sculptures are fashioned in Lismore’s elaborate and extravagant ensembles, expressions of body adornment and conceptual thinking. They combine haute couture with items from his personal collection of nearly 7,000 unique curiosities, including charity-shop finds, yards of vintage fabrics and found objects. 

The exhibition will examine social, historical and cultural themes central to Lismore’s work and life living as sculpture. He has been a noted advocate of sustainable fashion, which sits at the heart of his artistic practice, a design philosophy that espouses creative re-use, upcycling of materials and reduction of impact on the environment. His relationships with creative communities around the world also inform his work and activism.

Lismore has been called ‘England’s most eccentric dresser’ by Vogue, exhibited around the world, and has designed costumes for the English National Opera. He was Creative Director of luxury label Sorapol where he dressed Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Naomi Campbell, Cara Delevingne, Adam Ant and Boy George amongst others. Many of the pieces designed for his celebrity clientele will be on display in Coventry. 

A specially made publication for the UK premiere of the exhibition, and Coventry UK City of Culture, will explore, excavate and celebrate Daniel’s unique journey from being raised in Coventry through to international fame. This will feature previously unseen private archive & materials including photos, found objects, ephemera, artworks & sketchbooks, personal materials documenting his journey from schooldays through adolescence - a tapestry of his journey from childhood to his true self living as sculpture.
Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken” was first presented in 2016, co-curated by Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) Atlanta USA and exhibited at SCAD FASH: Museum of Fashion and Film. Since its original presentation, the exhibition has been presented in Basel Miami 2016, Iceland 2018, Naples 2019 and Poland in November 2019. For this homecoming exhibition, many of the work will be enhanced and expanded, with previously unseen works on display.

Daniel Lismore says: 
“Since February 2002 I’ve been on an emotional journey as a living sculpture. The forthcoming exhibition is my first UK solo show & premiere, it also marks my 20th year as a living sculpture. February 2022 is the 20th anniversary of my leaving Coventry to work internationally on my art projects. I’m returning with my entire archive and am so excited to bring it to my hometown. 

I’m very honoured and privileged to be invited to exhibit here and collaborate in the celebrations planned for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 particularly at the Herbert which has a strong emotional connection to my youth; growing up it was the first art gallery I had heard of and visited. This show is for the city and all of the people in it. Coventry is in the foundations of my work. 

I know the work is based on many of the images I have portrayed over the years but it’s really not about me. My art has always been for others. If it only inspires one person to be them true selves I have done my job as an artist. That’s what I hope for others struggling to be themselves.’’

Francis Nielsen, Cultural & Creative Director of The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, says

“We are incredibly excited to announce that we will be hosting the UK premiere of Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. It is fitting for our last major exhibition within the UK City of Culture 2021 programme to be a homecoming and celebration of the work of the Coventry raised, internationally acclaimed artist - Daniel Lismore.”

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry UK City of Culture Trust, says: 

“Daniel Lismore is made in Cov, a true home-grown icon, whose distinctive style and artistic creations have been celebrated around the world in galleries, on stage, in tv/film and through fashion houses. His work is beautiful, provocative and individual, and speaks to his activism, promoting human rights especially for LGBTQIA+ citizens and as a climate crisis campaigner. We are thrilled to support this exhibition and associated activities through Spring 2022.”