Life Class

Alan Kane

United Kingdom
22 June 2009 - 03 July 2009

In July 2009 the nation learned to draw through television life drawing classes led by John Berger, Judy Purbeck, Maggi Hambling, Gary Hume and Humphrey Ocean. Broadcast during the daytime on Channel 4 in a series of five half-hour classes, an audience was guided by a tutor giving insights into the techniques of figurative drawing, art and life. Each class featured a different type of model and the classes took place in a range of settings from the Life Drawing room at the Royal Academy of Arts to the artist’s own studio and a dance studio.

From the end of June, in advance of the broadcast of the programmes, Artangel organised temporary drop-in life drawing classes in five locations across London – in the City, Soho, Covent Garden, Canary Wharf and Bloomsbury – and in four cities across the UK: Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and Glasgow. In a different location every lunch-time, a class appeared for just two hours and passers-by were invited to sit behind an easel, pick up a pencil and draw.

Life Class: Today’s Nude continued Kane’s often irreverent attempts at democratising the production and dissemination of art and culture by taking the nude life class model out of the rarified intimacy of the studio and transmitting it nationwide.

Image of drop-in class 29 June, Shoreditch. Photo: Chris Osburn

Life Class: Flickr group

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Life Class: Flickr group

Flickr is the world’s leading website for sharing photography and images. We've set up a group within it where you can upload the work you produce as you watch Life Class: Today’s Nude or attend the preceding drop-in classes.

If you've never used Flickr before, here are some pointers. Otherwise, you can go straight to the site.

Still from Life Class: Today’s Nude, by artist Alan Kane, with tutor Judy Purbeck (2009).

Audio: John Berger on drawing Maria Muñoz

7 minutes 48 seconds
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Audio: John Berger on drawing Maria Muñoz

A drawing I started two weeks ago, and every day since I've worked on it, crept up on it to take it unaware, corrected it, erased it - it's a large charcoal drawing on thick paper - hidden it away, displayed it, reworked it, looked at it in a mirror, redrawn it, and today I think it's over. — John Berger

John Berger discusses drawing Maria Muñoz, recorded in July 2009.

This audio is also available to listen to on Soundcloud.

Still from Life Class: Today’s Nude, by artist Alan Kane, with tutor John Berger (2009).


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At the end of each programme you see a drawing or a painting that hadn't existed 30 minutes before. You may even, if Kane has his way, feel compelled to put down the remote control and draw the model yourself while you're watching. — Louise France, The Observer, 21 June 2009

Selected Press

"Although known for his conceptual work, such as his collaboration with the Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, Mr Kane said what inspired him to become an artist was life drawing and he has mourned its diminished popularity. 'It has definitely come off the agenda at art school,' he said. — Mark Hughes, The Independent, 13 April 2009.

Discovering what the viewer's efforts will look like isn't a key motivation for Kane - though there'll be an opportunity to post your drawing up on the website. He's more interested in setting up a situation where the rarified atmosphere of the life room is brought into the living room, and beyond - and in this sense Life Class ties in with Kane's best-known work, Folk Archive, the ongoing project he and Jeremy Deller initiated in 2000 which, gathering together strange objects, rituals and pastimes from around the country, deliberately blurs the boundaries between 'high' and 'low', amateur and professional, popular and conceptual art. — Martin Coomer, Hotline, June 2009.

Life Class is groundbreaking television – not just because of the nudity (interestingly there are no UK laws against nudity on TV at any time of day, as long as it isn’t in a sexual context), but also because of the interactive nature of the programme. The brainchild of contemporary artist Alan Kane, in collaboration with the arts commissioning organisations Artangel and Jerwood, the series is intended to democratise culture and create, as Kane puts it, an 'interesting new space' for TV. — Rebecca Rose, Financial Times, 20 June 2009.

I’m sitting in front of a large and naked woman named Lucy who is lying in a foetal position on the floor of a Victorian art gallery in north London. I have spent the past 40 minutes trying to capture both the exact curve of Lucy’s fleshy backside, in charcoal on the paper I’ve got propped on my knees, and, with a putty eraser, the way that the light is falling on her upper buttock. So engrossed have I become in this effort that I have long forgotten the reason I am here: to observe the atmosphere of a life class, and to get a sense of the curious relationship of model to amateur artist. Who wants to take notes, though, when you can draw? — Tim Adams, The New Statesman, 25 June 2009.

About Alan Kane

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Alan Kane

Alan Kane was selected as part of the 2006 Open call for proposals from Artangel and Jerwood.

Born in Nottingham, Alan Kane lives and works in London. He has had numerous solo exhibitions including The Stratford Hoard at Stratford Station as part of TfL's Art on the Underground series (2008), Steam Powered Internet Machine in collaboration with Jeremy Deller at Turner Contemporary, Margate (2006) and Folk Archive in collaboration with Jeremy Deller at New Art Gallery, Walsall.

He has also exhibited at Aberystwyth Arts Centre; The Lowry, Salford; Kunsthalle Basel; Barbican Centre; Milton Keynes Gallery and Spacex Gallery, Exeter. His group exhibitions include Amateurs, CCA Wattis, San Francisco (2008) and Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires, Ancient & Modern (2006).

Images: Life Class Drop In Session in Covent Garden, Soho, 23 June 2009 (left). Photograph: Chris Osburn; Portrait of the artist Alan Kane, 2009 (above). Photograph: Jessica Mallock 


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Who made this possible?


Life Class: Today’s Nude was commissioned and produced for Channel 4 by Artangel. The programmes were commissioned by Jan Younghusband, Commissioning Editor for Arts and Performance, Channel 4. The commission was supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Artists’ materials for the ‘pop-up’ life drawing classes supplied by London Graphic Centre.

This project was supported by Arts Council EnglandArtangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and  The Company of Angels.