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Exhibition celebrating working class culture launches at the Herbert

A free exhibition celebrating working class culture has opened at a gallery in Coventry.

Launched at Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, Hayward Gallery Touring presents After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989 - 2024. 

The group exhibition brings together working class artists who use photography to explore the nuances of life in all its diversity today, turning their gaze towards both their communities and out to the wider world. 

After the End of History offers a picture of working-class life today; from Rene Matic’s portrait of growing up mixed race in a white working-class community in Peterborough, to Elaine Constaintine's documentation of the Northern Soul scene, to Kavi Pujara ode to Leicester's Hindu community, and JA Mortram’s documentation throughout his life of marginalised people while working as a caregiver. 

2024 marks 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the symbolic end of Communism. For the economist Francis Fukuyama, writing in the early 1990s, this celebrated triumph of Western Liberal Democracy as the only viable future for global politics represented the “End of History”. 

The counter-cultural energies of the 1980s, very often powered up by the alternative ideologies embodied by Communism, and a reaction against Thatcherism, produced a collective, coherent and politically engaged generation of working-class artists. 

Johny Pitts, Curator of After the End of History, says: “Developing a show with Hayward Gallery Touring, which pieces together complex and counterintuitive expressions of working class life through the lens, has been a deeply enriching process. 

“I hope the extraordinary work included offers not only a celebration of the craft and creativity of working class practitioners, but also engages, surprises and inspires a working class audience, and anyone interested in art against-the-odds.” 

Brian Cass, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery Touring, says: “Thanks to the insights and passion of curator Johny Pitts, After the End of History offers a portrayal of working-class culture that doesn’t conform to expectation. 

“It features a fascinating range of artists whose visually compelling images challenge the ideals of classic documentary photography while also saying something vital about class, community and creativity. We are delighted to be working with our exhibition partners on this project and we hope the exhibition offers audiences a thoughtful, relevant and affirming celebration of working-class creativity.” 

Marguerite Nugent, Cultural Director, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, adds: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be the first venue to host After The End of History at the Herbert. 

“The exhibition represents the working-class story since the Thatcher era, told through the lens of working-class artists, and offers audiences the opportunity to engage with themes about class and identity.”

image: Eddie Otchere, Goldie: Metalheadz at the Blue Note in Hoxton Square in 1995. Courtesy the artist.