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Ali Cherri: If you prick us, do we not bleed?

Ali Cherri presents a series of mixed media, sculptural installations which consider how histories of trauma can be explored through a response to museum and gallery collections.

Ali Cherri's "The Madonna of the Cat, after Barocci" in a glass case on display in the National Gallery. The work is a white plaster hand pinning down a taxidermied goldfinch.

The exhibition If you prick us, do we not bleed? started with research in the The National Gallery’s archive, from which Cherri uncovered accounts of five National Gallery paintings that were vandalised while on display. He was struck by the public’s highly emotional response to these attacks, finding that newspaper articles would describe the damages as if they were wounds inflicted on a living being – even referring to the Gallery’s conservators as surgeons.

He also noticed an overwhelming urge to ‘heal’, make good and hide the damage. This personification of artworks, and the suggestion that they can experience distress, is reflected in the exhibition’s title, taken from Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.

In response, Cherri presents a series of mixed media, sculptural installations that recall aspects of eachpainting and that imagine its life following the vandalism. They bring into question what Cherri calls the ‘politics of visibility’; the decisions we make about how, and to what extent, we accept trauma within museums. By translating each damaged work into a series of objects, Cherri reminds us that we are never truly the same after experiencing violence.

A close up of Ali Cherri's "The Madonna of the Cat, after Barocci" (2022). The work is a white plaster hand pinning down a taxidermied goldfinch.

The 2021 National Gallery Artist in Residence is a collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society, generously supported by Anna Yang and Joseph Schull.

The National Gallery Artist in Residence is a collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society.

Programme sponsored by Hiscox