Our History

Our History

Since opening in 2009, we have welcomed two million people and presented more than 50 exhibitions. We have become renowned for our innovative research and learning programmes, and our building has been hailed as an architectural triumph.

Nottingham Contemporary grew out of Angel Row Gallery, which presented more than 200 exhibitions between 1991 and 2007. Nottingham Contemporary and our iconic purpose-built venue, was made possible through capital funding from Arts Council England, Nottingham City Council, East Midlands Development Agency, Greater Nottingham Partnership

Sam Thorne was appointed director in 2015, taking up the position in early 2016, following on from our founding director Alex Farquharson.

Our Building

Our green and gold building is iconic in Nottingham. Designed by Caruso St John Architects, our RIBA Award-winning building is one of the largest contemporary art institutions in the UK.

Celebrating Nottingham’s heritage, our building takes inspiration from the historic Lace Market quarter of the city. It references the bold, elegant design of the warehouses that serviced Nottingham’s famous lace industry. The concrete facade is embedded with a mid-19th-century cherry blossom lace design by Richard Birkin, which was discovered in a time capsule buried on our building’s site.

Nottingham Contemporary is sunk into sandstone cliffs, giving it an irregular structure, and a sense of being much larger on the inside than on the outside. By maximising the use of the available land, our building sits within the existing city skyline, nestled among the red brickwork of neighbouring Georgian townhouses. We’re based in the oldest site in the city – the site of a Saxon fort, a medieval town hall, and a late Victorian railway cutting.

“This is a terrific piece of work, fearless and subtle, with a refreshingly intelligent programme… [I wonder if this might] be the first masterpiece of British architecture of the twenty-first century”.
Owen Hatherley, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Verso 2010

“Its galleries are scrupulously designed for the display of art… Nottingham Contemporary stands outside the usual run of decent-but-predictable modern architecture... It is a public, civic building that makes a contribution to its city.”
Rowan Moore, The Observer, 25 July 2010

Our venue is available to hire

Our Exhibitions

Our ambitious exhibitions of international art stimulate important discussion about culture and society. We regularly present ambitious thematic exhibitions, such as: The Place is Here (2017), a landmark survey of Black British Art; States of America (2017), the largest-ever survey of American photography in the UK; Glenn Ligon’s Encounters and Collisions (2015); and From Ear to Ear to Eye (2017–18), an exploration of the politics of listening across the Arab world. We support artists at different stages of their careers, from presenting first-time solo shows in the UK, to surveys of internationally renowned figures. We often commission major new works, from artists includingLara Favaretto and Simon Starling, and a number of these have been acquired by major collections. Many of our exhibitions tour nationally and internationally. Explore our exhibition archive.

"To describe this show as a revelation would be true, but an understatement"
The Observer, review of The Place is Here (2017)

“This show could not be more important”
Financial Times, review of From Ear to Ear to Eye (2017–18)