Sonia Boyce discusses the controversy that arose out of a performance that took place at Manchester Art Gallery in 2018, which included the temporary removal of the painting Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) by John William Waterhouse. In the talk she will tease out some of the troubling issues that emerged during the process of the project and address the wider cultural context for the artwork she created from the performance, titled Six Acts (2018).

Following the lecture there was a live Q&A session convened by Emma Gieben-Gamal and Dr Deborah Jackson.


Sonia Boyce came to prominence as a key figure in the burgeoning Black-British art scene of the early 1980s and was one of the youngest artists of her generation to have her artwork acquired by Tate, featuring deeply personal reflections on race, class and gender in Britain.

Known for her highly innovative and experimental approach to art-making, using performance, drawing, print, photography and audio-visual elements, since the 1990s her practice has become increasingly improvisational and collaborative where she invites a broad cross-section of participants to come together and speak, sing or move in relation to the past and present. At the heart of Boyce’s work is an empowering exploration of gestures and events with an underlying focus on the personal and political subjectivities of those involved.

Recent solo exhibitions include: In the Castle of My Skin (2020) Eastside Projects, Birmingham; Sonia Boyce (2018) Manchester Art Gallery; We move in her way (2017) ICA, London; Paper Tiger Whiskey Soap Theatre – Dada Nice (2016) Villa Arson, Nice. Recent group exhibitions include: Living Just Enough (2020) Goodman Gallery, London; The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp (2017) Prospect 4, New Orleans; All the World’s Futures (2015) 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice.

A professor at University of the Arts London (UAL), Sonia Boyce is the inaugural Chair of Black Art and Design and was the Principal-Investigator for the research project Black Artists and Modernism (AHRC funded 2015-2018).  In 2016, she was elected a Royal Academician, and in the same year received a Paul Hamlyn Artist Award. In 2019, she received an OBE for Services to Art in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art. In 2022, Sonia Boyce will represent Britain at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice.