Bristol fashions a Ship-Shape Arts scene

by Cass Art

When it comes to the personality of the British people, Bristol prides itself on having its own micro-climate. 
This is reflected in the maverick nature of two of its favourite sons, Damien Hirst and Banksy, who remain among the UK's most compelling, maverick contemporary artists.
It's little wonder, then, that Bristol's gallery and arts event offerings are eclectic, distinctive and plentiful.
Arnolfini in Narrow Quay is one of Europe’s leading centres for the contemporary arts, presenting innovative, experimental work in visual arts, performance, dance, film and music. This Saturday (October 5) Prunella Scales, best remembered as Fawlty Towers' formidable Sybil Fawlty, joins poet Leo Aylen in a performance that explores the politics of cross-gender relationships. It is part of the Bristol Poetry Festival featuring literary luminaries such as Martin Figura and Louis de Bernieres.
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in Queens Road is prominent among these. The prestigious free-to-the-public council-run arthouse features exhibitions on French and Eastern Art. The former boasts work by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) and Lucien Pissarro (1863-1944). 
The latter features ceramics, carvings and glass from ancient China and Japan. Pharaoh: Reborn offers Giovanni Belzoni's collection of watercolours depicting the tomb of Pharaoh Sety I.
MShed's three galleries in a 1950 transit shed in Bristol wharf's Wapping Road is dedicated to telling the city's amazing story through the recollections and objects of its own people. It is currently staging Rugby League and the South West, a history of the sport's compelling South-Western heroes.
Soma in Boyce's Avenue features innovative pieces by established and new artists, specialising in limited edition prints by illustrators and printmakers. New arrivals include Voyage To The Deep 3D, a silkscreen print on ply by Peskimo; a pinball machine like you've never seen.
Spike Island
Spike Island in Cumberland Road is a vibrant international centre for the development of contemporary art and design through production, presentation and debate. The autumn's attractions include Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2013 (until November 10), an annual national platform for fine art graduates. Saturday (October 5) brings I Am Making, a free hands-on artist-led activity. This month, you can learn about story design and low-fi animation. 
The Royal West of England Academy in Queen's Road, Clifton, the city's first art gallery, should appeal to royalists with its One Hundred Years: The RWA and Royal Patronage exhibition (until November 5). Memory and tradition collide here, with works lent by the royals themselves.
Affordable Arts Fair in Brunel's Old Station is an annual event (next one, September 19-21, 2014), which this year welcomed 7,500 visitors who enjoyed viewing and purchasing art from 55 exhibiting galleries.
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