The Ashmolean is delighted to announce that Pio Abad (b.1983) has been shortlisted for the 2024 Turner Prize for his Ashmolean NOW exhibition, 'To Those Sitting in Darkness'.
Pio Abad in his studio, courtesy of the artist

The exhibition, which opened in February and runs to September 2024, is part of Ashmolean NOW, a series representing early to mid-career artists based in the UK. 'To Those Sitting in Darkness' is a visual conversation featuring profound, challenging and original works.

Abad’s art concerns colonial history and cultural loss and is deeply informed by world history, with a particular focus on the Philippines, where he was born and raised. His parents campaigned for justice during a time of conflict and corruption under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, and it is the need to remember this history that has shaped the foundations of his work.

Now based in London, Abad’s poetic, personal and political art offers a powerful critique of the way many museums collect, display and interpret the objects they hold, and questions prevailing perceptions and perspectives.

powhatan mantle composite1284

Abad created a wide-ranging body of work for 'To Those Sitting in Darkness' encompassing drawing, sculpture and text. The title is a reference to American writer Mark Twain’s satire ‘To the Person Sitting in Darkness’ (1901), which strongly criticised imperialism. 

The exhibition explores, identifies and illuminates objects Abad found in the rich and varied collections of the University of Oxford; his focus on those where their histories have been marginalised, unexplained, ignored or forgotten.

Giolo's Lament - engraving of arm outstretched on marble, by Pio Abad

His intricately detailed creations are displayed together with other artists’ work alongside ‘diasporic’ objects researched and chosen by Abad from a range of Oxford collections and archives, including the Pitt Rivers Museum, St John’s College and Blenheim Palace.

Pio Abad says: ‘I am beyond thrilled to be shortlisted for the Turner Prize. I share this honour with my community of makers, custodians and storytellers who made this exhibition possible: curator Lena Fritsch, my wife and collaborator Frances, the artist Carlos Villa and his family, and Jamela Alindogan and the Sinagtala weavers.

Inside the Pio Abad Ashmolean Now gallery. Photo by Hannah Pye

'My exhibition endeavours to illuminate struggles and stories that have been kept in the dark for too long, and I am delighted that this nomination can shine an even brighter light on them.’

Ashmolean NOW is curated by Dr Lena Fritsch, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean (pictured below with Pio Abad). She says: 'Where many of us who work in or visit museums think of them as spaces of preservation, communication and inclusion, Pio Abad makes the case for them as places of loss, silence and exclusion.

Inside the Pio Abad exhibition at the preview with the curator and artist

'His visually alluring and thought-provoking work underlines how art is the ideal medium to rediscover, debate and liberate "diasporic" objects and give them a new cultural platform, memory and voice. I’m truly delighted that Pio has been shortlisted for the Turner Prize with our exhibition.’

Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, says: ‘I am thrilled that Pio has been shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his exhibition in our Ashmolean NOW series which encourages contemporary artists to engage with our collections and our history. Pio’s multi-layered works repay all the looking and thinking that their meticulous and engaging nature encourages us to give them.'

Pio Abad will be ‘In Conversation’ with Anthony Gardner, Professor of Contemporary Art History, Ruskin School of Art at the Ashmolean on Wed 1 May, 2024 to discuss 'To Those Sitting in Darkness', his artistic practise and interest in the historic collections he encountered in Oxford.



Exhibition: Ashmolean NOW: Pio Abad – To Those Sitting in Darkness

Dates: 10 February – 8 September 2024 

Venue: Gallery 8, Lower Ground Floor, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK 

Admission: Free

Catalogue: £20 available from the Ashmolean and at our online shop

Artist Talk: Ashmolean NOW: In Conversation with Pio Abad. Booking essential

Exhibition Film: Introducing Pio Abad and the exhibition (YouTube)


Press Images for editorial use are available to download at: go.glam.ox.ac.uk/pio_abad
Exhibition press release

Sarah Holland, acting Press and Publicity Manager  
T+44 (0)1865 278 178 | www.ashmolean.org/press | @AshmoleanPress

The exhibition is supported by: Ampersand Foundation, Christian Levett, Mercedes U. Zobel, the Patrons of the Ashmolean Museum and those who wish to remain anonymous.

About Ashmolean NOW
Ashmolean NOW launched in 2023 to engage and support new artistic voices based in the UK and encourage critical conversations with, and creative responses to, the Ashmolean’s collections. Ashmolean NOW is curated by Dr Lena Fritsch, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and presented in Gallery 8. To date, Ashmolean NOW has invited four very different artists and perspectives to exhibit: 
Flora Yukhnovich x Daniel Crews-Chubb (8 July 2023 – 14 January 2024); Pio Abad (10 February – 8 September 2024); Bettina von Zwehl (from October 2024).

About the artist
Pio Abad’s artistic practice is concerned with the personal and political entanglements of objects. His wide-ranging body of work, encompassing drawing, painting, textiles, installation and text, mines alternative or repressed historical events and offers counter-narratives that draw out threads of complicity between incidents, ideologies and people. Deeply informed by unfolding events in the Philippines, where Abad was born and raised, his art emanates from a family narrative woven into the nation’s story. Abad’s parents were at the forefront of the anti-dictatorship struggle in the Philippines during the 1970s and 80s and it is the need to remember this history that has shaped the foundations of his work. 

About the Turner Prize
Each year the Turner Prize jury shortlist four artists for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation.

Press release Images: 

Banner image and other gallery images of the exhibition
© Hannah Pye / Ashmolean Museum

Pio Abad in his studio
Courtesy the artist

Pio Abad (b.1983) 'I am singing a song that can only be borne after losing a country', 2023
© Pio Abad. Courtesy the artist

Powhatan's Mantle, c.1600–1628
Presented by Elias Ashmole, 1677, from the Tradescant Collection
©  Ashmolean, University of Oxford

Pio Abad (b.1983) 'Giolo’s Lament' (detail), 2023
(One of eleven engravings on marble)
© Pio Abad. Courtesy the artist