Painting of a nude woman crouching on the floor looking at the viewer, red and brown colour palette, a pregnant woman stands naked in the background, a child is seen in the background.

About Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood

Hayward Gallery Touring’s major group exhibition Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood will plunge into the joys and heartaches, mess, myths and mishaps of motherhood through over 100 artworks, from the feminist avant-garde to the present day.

While the Madonna and Child is one of the great subjects of European art, we rarely see art about motherhood as a lived experience, in all its complexity. Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood will address this blind spot in art history, asserting the artist mother as an important – if rarely visible – cultural figure.

Featuring the work of more than sixty modern and contemporary artists, this exhibition will approach motherhood as a creative enterprise, albeit one at times tempered by ambivalence, exhaustion or grief. Acts of Creation will explore lived experience of motherhood, offering a complex account that engages with contemporary concerns about gender, caregiving and reproductive rights.

The exhibition will address diverse experiences of motherhood across three themes: Creation, which looks at conception, pregnancy, birth and nursing; Maintenance which explores motherhood and caregiving in the day-to-day; and Loss, which touches on miscarriage and involuntary childlessness, as well as reproductive rights. The heart of the exhibition is a series of revelatory self-portraits – a celebration of the artist as mother.

Featuring painting, photography, sculpture, sound and film, artists in the exhibition include:

Felicity Allen, Janine Antoni, Cassie Arnold, Bobby Baker, Elina Brotherus, Liesel Burisch, Cathy Cade, Lea Cetera, Jai Chuhan, Eileen Cooper, Renee Cox, Dorothy Cross, Rineke Dijkstra, Natalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Leni Dothan, Marlene Dumas (in collaboration with her daughter Helena), Catherine Elwes, Tracey Emin, Jessa Fairbrother, Rachel Fallon, Feministo, VALIE EXPORT, Fenix, Maeve Gilmore, Anna Grevenitis, Ghislaine Howard, The Hackney Flashers, Camille Henrot, Susan Hiller, Elsa James, Chantal Joffe, Claudette Johnson, Mary Kelly, Material Fantasies, Liss LaFleur, Sally Mann, Mother Art, Lindsey Mendick, Wangechi Mutu, Ishbel Myerscough, Catherine Opie, Fani Parali, Celia Paul, Cathie Pilkington, Laure Prouvost, Paula Rego, Su Richardson, Sister Seven, Monica Sjöö, Annegret Soltau, Tabitha Soren, Heather Spears, Nancy Spero, Hannah Starkey, Emma Talbot, Barbara Walker, Caroline Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Nancy Willis, Hermione Wiltshire and Clare Bottomley, Daphne Wright, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Christine Voge, Del LaGrace Volcano, Carmen Winant and Billie Zangewa

Acts of Creation will be accompanied by a lively programme of public events and an illustrated book published by Thames and Hudson.

Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood is curated by Hettie Judah with Hayward Gallery Touring and will go on to Millennium Gallery, Sheffield (24 October 2024 - 21 January 2025) and Dundee Contemporary Arts (spring 2025 -exact dates to be confirmed).

Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood is generously supported by Arts Council England and players of People's Postcode Lottery. MAC would like to thank Eversheds Sutherland, headline sponsor of Acts of Creation.

Image: Jai Chuhan, Self-portrait, 1995. Oil on canvas, 210 x 150cm.

Please note we would like visitors to be aware that the artworks in Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood address important issues surrounding women’s health and wellbeing including: nudity, childbirth, (in)fertility, miscarriage, abortion, loss, domestic abuse, adoption, sterilisation and obstetric violence.

Exhibition audio description