Signals, Joe Cruz, 2021

Today sees the launch of Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) new permanent Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries, which tells the story of the most devastating conflict and genocide in modern history. To mark the occasion, IWM has collaborated with contemporary artist Joe Cruz to create an exclusive series of six prints reflecting the global scale of the conflict.

During the Second World War, Britain mobilised the people and resources of its then empire, which was approximately a quarter of the world. While some people from the empire volunteered to work or fight for Britain, others were exploited or forced to contribute to the war effort. To highlight this fact, Cruz used photographs from the Museum’s archive, adding his distinctive, bold style to reveal some of the experiences of people from places within the former British Empire.

Each photograph reveals a different aspect of the global scale of the war and represents the work and sacrifice of people across the world. “This global conflict is often not fully understood by modern audiences,” says the Museum. “A recent YouGov poll of British adults carried out for IWM found that less than half of 16-44 year-olds knew that India was part of the allied war effort during the Second World War.” It’s therefore hoped that this new collection of prints will raise awareness of the various experiences and contributions of people around the world.

A London-based visual artist and photographer, Cruz has so far collaborated with the likes of Hermès, New York Times, Netflix, Stussy, Calvin Klein, Tiffany and Apple since his graduation from Norwich School of Art in 2010. With work spanning art, design, fashion and graphics, he has a style that leaves us wondering whether his artworks are photographs, paintings or both. A campaign for Sixteen Journal earlier this year saw him create a series exploring 1990s Japanese commercial culture – works that demonstrate this mixed media approach.

The series for IWM took Cruz down a different path: “The historical nature of the images led to my artistic approach as I wasn’t allowed to crop or edit them,” he tells Creative Boom. “Instead, I used vivid and electric colour to heighten and distort the images. I wanted my creations to be bold and energetic to convey both the full force of the subjects – their strength, heroism and hard work – whilst also taking them into a hyper-acidic, unreal realm that steers clear of romance and nostalgia.”

His series of six images for IWM will be available as a limited run of 100 prints each and will retail at £75. Each will be hand-signed and numbered and will be available to purchase at IWM London and online at shop.iwm.org.uk from today, 20 October.

Training, Joe Cruz, 2021

Construction, Joe Cruz, 2021

Air, Joe Cruz, 2021

Land, Joe Cruz, 2021

Shelter, Joe Cruz, 2021

Creative Boom