Michael Clark: V&A Dundee exhibition to celebrate 'one of Scotland's most remarkable creative minds'

He is the Scottish artist and performer whose influences and work straddles the worlds of ballet, visual art, fashion, film, nightclubbing, punk and rock music.

Now the Aberdeen-born dancer and choreographer Michael Clark is set to be celebrated like never before in his home country, with the first exhibition devoted to his trailblazing career.

Nearly 40 years after launching his own company, V&A Dundee will be playing host to the retrospective bringing together his biggest influences, key collaborations and most memorable performances.

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Film footage, sculptures. paintings, costumes and photography will all feature in the six-month exhibition Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, which will open on March 5.

Michael Clark in a publicity photograph from 1986. Picture: Richard Haughton

V&A Dundee says the show, which follows the museum’s hugely popular celebration of nightclubbing, will offer a unique insight into a man it describes as “one of Scotland’s most remarkable creative minds”.

The exhibition will explore how Clark, a classically-trained ballet dancer, has drawn inspiration from different forms of culture in his work and opened up the world of dance to new audiences since his swift rise to prominence in the 1980s.

Heavily influenced by the likes of David Bowie, Patti Smith and T.Rex, Clark has worked with musical acts such as The Fall, Jarvis Cocker and Scritti Politti, the artists Sarah Lucas, Leigh Bowery and Peter Doig, the fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, and the filmmakers Peter Greenaway and Derek Jarman.

Born in 1962, Clark began Scottish traditional dance classes when he was four, won a place at the Royal Ballet School in London when he was 13 and formed his own dance company at the age of 22 in 1984, by which time he had made 16 original dance pieces.

Michael Clark during the filming of Charles Atlas's 1986 film 'Hail the New Puritan.' Picture: Richard Haughton

The V&A Dundee exhibition is an updated version of a show launched at the Barbican arts centre in London two years ago.

The show, tickets for which have just gone on sale, is billed as “an extraordinary blend of punk, ballet and popular culture, celebrating a true Scottish radical who has created a revolution in dance”.

Sophie McKinlay, director of programme at V&A Dundee, said: “It is a hugely exciting moment to bring an exhibition about one of Scotland’s most daring and rebellious creative minds home to V&A Dundee.

“Michael Clark brought together a community of collaborators across art, dance, design, fashion, music and photography to create performances that have forever changed how people look at contemporary dance.

Michael Clark in a 1984 publicity photograph. Picture: Richard Haughton

“Clark is a true radical, a technically brilliant dancer and choreographer as well as a provocative artist whose work has challenged and shocked society’s expectations of gender and sexuality from the 1980s right up to the present day.

"His work with non-professional dancers, including at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, only underlines his total commitment to opening dance up to everyone.”

Curator Florence Ostende said: “Clark is fascinating as a pioneer who brought together different disciplines to completely change contemporary dance and the British cultural landscape, from embracing and celebrating queer culture in the 1980s through to redefining gender representation and stereotypes within the heteronormative tradition of ballet history.

"This exhibition, one of the largest surveys ever dedicated to a living choreographer, presents a comprehensive story of Clark’s career.”

Michael Clark collaborated with the indie-rock band The Fall on his 1988 show I am Curious, Orange. Picture: Richard Haughton
Lorena Randi and Victoria Insole performing in Before and After The Fall, Michael Clark's collaboration with the artist Sarah Lucas. Picture: Andrea Stappert
Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark dressed in a t-shirt and tutu at the launch of Derek Jarman’s book ‘Dancing Ledge in London in the 1980s. Picture: Steve Pyke
Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark. Picture: Jake Walters
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