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The Royal Academy Reveals Tavares Strachan's The First Supper Sculpture

3 February - 28 April 2024 | Annenberg Courtyard, London


The Royal Academy of Arts presents "The First Supper, 2021-23", a monumental sculpture by Tavares Strachan. Recognized as Strachan’s most ambitious and substantial work to date, the sculpture is a part of the exhibition Entangled Pasts: 1768–now: Art, Colonialism and Change, which explores the complex histories of the Royal Academy and its global connections.


Tavares Strachan, The First Supper (Galaxy Black) (detail), 2023 Bronze, black patina, gold leaf, 217.3 x 928.6 x 267.9 cm Courtesy of the artist and Courtesy of Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. Photo: Jonty Wilde
Tavares Strachan, The First Supper (Galaxy Black) (detail), 2023 Bronze, black patina, gold leaf, 217.3 x 928.6 x 267.9 cm Courtesy of the artist and Courtesy of Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. Photo: Jonty Wilde

The First Supper represents what Strachan describes as a utopian gathering that brings together

historically significant figures from the continent of Africa and its diasporas, accompanied by a thylacine

or Tasmanian tiger and a portrait of the artist. It includes sculptural portraits of resistance fighter Zumbi

Dos Palmares; nurse Mary Seacole; activists Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, and Marsha P. Johnson;

explorer Matthew Henson; astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence; politician Shirley Chisholm; Emperor

Haile Selassie; musicians Sister Rosetta Tharpe and King Tubby; and poet Sir Derek Alton Walcott.

Although some of the figures around the table are well-known, others have been forgotten and are not

widely studied.


The First Supper is a celebration of commensality - the act of eating together. It emphasises the role of

communal meals in forging and sustaining social relationships, with Strachan describing the sharing of

food and conversation as “part of the fabric of human experience.” The specific foods represented in

The First Supper also point to broader spiritual, philosophical, and ideological perspectives guiding the

sculpture. Spread out across the table are items such as African rice, breadfruit, catfish, chicken, cocoa,

custard apple, and soursop. These foods consumed in the Caribbean have been traced to Indigenous

and African influences, along with the histories of enslavement and indentured servitude. For example,

enslaved people carrying African rice played a crucial role in the expansion of rice cultivation in the

Americas during the Atlantic slave trade. These subtle but critical quotations enrich the sculpture,

allowing it to engage with broader issues of technology transfer, Indigenous knowledge, and agency.



Tavares Strachan, The First Supper (Galaxy Black) (detail), 2023 Bronze, black patina, gold leaf, 217.3 x 928.6 x 267.9 cm Courtesy of the artist and Courtesy of Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. Photo: Jonty Wilde
Tavares Strachan, The First Supper (Galaxy Black) (detail), 2023 Bronze, black patina, gold leaf, 217.3 x 928.6 x 267.9 cm Courtesy of the artist and Courtesy of Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. Photo: Jonty Wilde


The exhibition Entangled Pasts: 1768-now, of which The First Supper is a part, explores art and its

role in shaping narratives in Britain around empire, enslavement, indenture, resistance, and abolition.

The First Supper acknowledges these complex histories while pointing to the future, to stories unwritten

and conversations yet to come.


Entangled Pasts: 1768–now: Art, Colonialism and Change will run in the Royal Academy’s Main

Galleries from 3 February to 28 April 2024.


For More on the programme, visit The Royal Academy


 

ABOUT TAVARES STRACHAN


Tavares Strachan (b. 1979, Nassau, Bahamas) received a BFA in Glass from the Rhode Island School

of Design in 2003 and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University in 2006. Strachan embodies the

migratory, cross-cultural, multidisciplinary, and open-ended nature of contemporary artmaking.

Extensively researched, his projects are realized in collaboration with specialists and organizations

across a wide spectrum of fields. He draws on both the resources and community of his birthplace,

dividing his time between New York and Nassau in the Bahamas, where he has established the art

studio and scientific research platform B.A.S.E.C. (Bahamas Aerospace and Sea Exploration Center)

and OKU, a not-for-profit community project encompassing an artist residency and exhibition spaces, a

scholarship scheme, and after-school creative programs. In 2022, Strachan was a recipient of a

MacArthur “Genius Grant,” awarded to individuals of extraordinary talent who have demonstrated

originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.

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The Royal Academy Reveals Tavares Strachan's The First Supper Sculpture

February 3, 2024

Sunshine Alaibe

3 min read

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