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Magic Show

Past exhibition
Hayward Gallery Touring

IInstallation View at the MAGIC ART SHOW 2009
Installation View MAGIC ART SHOW 2009 - Hayward Touring at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool

How do artists adopt the perception-shifting tactics of magicians?

Magic Show, a mixed-media exhibition with work by 24 contemporary artists, demonstrated how visual artists adopt the perception-shifting tactics of the theatrical magician.

Magic for some suggests fantasy and illusion; for others it signals a licence to practice deception. Curated by artist, writer and sometime magician, Jonathan Allen, and writer Sally O'Reilly, Magic Show considered both these approaches, taking fiction and trickery to be intertwined, historically prevalent and culturally pivotal.

The exhibition showed how artists use the conjurer’s tactics to explore questions of creative agency, the power of suggestion, and the fragility of belief. 

It also illustrated how, using these tactics, artists summon wonderment whilst simultaneously performing critique, and revealed how strategic illusion and misdirection can be employed in more ominous contexts, such as political dictatorship.

Magic Show included major new commissions as well as a live performance programme, film screenings and a catalogue with essays by both curators.

Featured artists

Jonathan Allen, Archive (Chris Kubik & Anne Walsh), Zoë Beloff, Ansuman Biswas & Jem Finer, Joan Brossa, Rick Buckley, Brian Catling, Center for Tactical Magic, Jackie & Denise Chapwoman, Tom Friedman, Brian Griffiths, Colin Guillemet, João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva, Susan Hiller, Alexandra Hopf, Christian Jankowski, Janice Kerbel, Annika Lundgren, Juan Muñoz, Bruce Nauman, Ian Saville, Ariel Schlesinger, Suzanne Treister and Sinta Werner.

Exhibition venues

This exhibition toured to the following venues:

  • QUAD, Derby
  • Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
  • Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle
  • Chapter, Cardiff
  • Pump House Gallery, London
Touring exhibitions

Find out more about our touring exhibitions programme, including exhibitions on tour and available to visit or hire.