Leeds Art Gallery Thursday 22 November 2018
The title for this event, "Last Night Has Given Me Something to Think About" refers to poet Marianne Moore’s reflections on Billie Holiday’s June 1941 performance at MoMA Art Gallery, New York. Moore described Holiday’s performance as a work of art, detailing Holiday’s “flame-coloured skirt” and how the performance had given her “something to think about for fifteen years!”
Holiday’s performance was part of the socialite and philanthropist Louise Crane’s “Coffee Concerts” series. Featuring Jazz luminaries including pianist Mary Lou Williams, singer Maxine Sullivan - and of course Holiday herself- the concerts saw live performances against a backdrop of visual art, in a Gallery housing some of the greats of 20th century art.. The “Concerts” drew New York’s celeberati, including figures such as the celebrated poets Elizabeth Bishop (Louise Crane’s partner) and (Crane’s close friend) Marianne Moore.
In homage to Holiday’s MoMA performance, Rommi Smith, poet, playwright and performer, leads a spoken-word performance tour of Leeds Art Gallery. This performance features the premiere of Smith’s brand-new poem in celebration of Holiday’s performance, researched and written during a recent stay in New York. In collaboration with bassist Ken Higgins, pianist Dave Evans and with theatre-director, Jason Hird, Smith invites us to consider the intersection of works of art: leading the audience through the different spaces of the Leeds galleries, halting at various paintings and sculptures to explore how spoken word and music might animate seeing a Gallery’s visual art in new and exciting ways.
The evening begins with a gathering of audience and performers in the Gallery’s Lecture Theatre and ends there with a follow-up discussion session.