Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Nancy Balfour OBE
Anthony Diamond QC
Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
Gabriel le Keiller
Geoffrey Tucker CBE
Alan Bowness CBE
Pauline Vogelpoel MBE The Director
Committee Report for the year ended 31 December 1977
During the year Sir Norman Reid and Max Gordon retired from the committee by rotation, Belle Shenkman was elected to the committee and David Brown and William Packer were co-opted to it. Ann Sutton, FSIAD, was co-opted earlier.
The principal activities of the society are to promote the development of contemporary art and to acquire contemporary works of art for presentation to public collections in Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The society’s activities during the year resulted in a surplus of £1,979. The accumulated fund amounted to £11,546 at 31 December, 1977.
May 22, 1978
The Queen’s Silver Jubilee was celebrated by the Contemporary Art Society twice over with two fascinating exhibitions: American Art at Home in Britain at the United States Embassy in July and Works on Paper at the Royal Academy’s Diploma Galleries in October. The first, organised by Catherine Curran and Anne Coffin, an American member who has now, alas, returned to New York, contained over 60 works by leading American artists of today. These ranged from Josef Albers to Carl Andre, from Andrew Wyeth to Andy Warhol, and had been bought for their private collections by members of the society since 1952. The second, planned to supplement the Royal Academy’s concurrent show of 25 years of British painting, consisted of drawings and other works on paper which had either been presented by the society to public galleries between 1952 and 1975 or bought by the society and not yet distributed.
Both were impressive exhibitions of the highest quality which enhanced the reputation of the society, particularly among artists and experts. We ourselves were surprised at the variety and importance of the American works owned and willingly lent by our members; few of them had previously been shown in public. The exhibition at the Diploma Galleries demonstrated not only the outstanding service which the society offers to the museums belonging to it but also how satisfactorily the work of today’s young artists compares with that of those whose reputations have long been established.
Neither show would have been feasible without the co-operation of private and public owners and we are most grateful to all of these generous lenders. The American exhibition was only made possible by the United States Information Service. It was their major contribution to the Jubilee celebrations and was opened by the then new American Ambassador, Mr. Kingman Brewster. The USIS converted its library to an exhibition space for us, printed an illustrated catalogue and helped in many other ways, quite apart from a large financial contribution. Another large donation came from the RCA company; all the costs of this exhibition were covered by special donations which are acknowledged later in this report.
Altogether well over 3000 people saw this show and nearly as many climbed the stairs to the Diploma Galleries at the Royal Academy in October; in both cases many of the visitors were young people. Works on Paper was financed mainly by grants from the London Celebrations Committee for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and from the Linbury Trust. Without this aid the exhibition could not have taken place. But expenses, especially for rent and security, were heavy and the society itself had to find a substantial sum in addition. However this was, your committee felt, a worth-while investment because the Arts Council has since been touring the exhibition to eight centres outside London,
making the society better known at no further cost to itself. Helpful publicity was also received as a result of the small show of recently purchased works which the society arranged in July, 1977, at the invitation of the organisers of the King’s Lynn Festival; similar shows are being presented this year at the Chichester and Harrogate Festivals. This year also a combination of students’ work and major purchases made by the society is touring Britain under the sponsorship of Crown Wall coverings.
This is an imaginative example of how business firms can help the visual arts; artists need sponsorship just as much as do the musicians, conductors and actors who benefit more frequently and often more generously from corporate support. Under the Crown project a substantial sum of money (£6000) was provided for the purchase of eight important modern pictures; these were chosen by Alan Bowness and Edward Lucie-Smith, members of the society’s committee, who also judged the 150 entries in a competition for art students. The six prize-winning works will go into the Crown collection. The purchased pictures will be divided between that collection and the society’s own collection; our share will be presented to public galleries at our next distribution. Another welcome example of business patronage in co-operation with the society came toward the end of 1977 when the Diamond Trading Company asked us to spend a large sum on their behalf to purchase pictures for the firm’s new office block. Such assistance is available to companies joining the society under our corporate membership scheme which also offers other benefits. Any firm using the society’s services in this way will know that the advice given will be independent of commercial considerations and that only high quality works will be recommended.
These new activities are the result of the development grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation reported last year; this enabled us to provide our director with a full time assistant and to undertake various promotional efforts. I hope that in consequence we will be able to report next year on a permanent, or comparatively permanent, improvement in our long-term financial position.
For the society the only improvement that really matters is an increase in the amounts that we can spend on buying works of art and thus on helping both living artists and public collections. In 1977 the total that we had available was rather less than in the previous year, because the Darwin Fund had run out. But we allocated £8700 from our own funds and received purchase grants, for which we are deeply thankful, of £5000 from the Arts Council of Great Britain and, for the first time, of £1000 (plus £150 for expenses) from the Scottish Arts Council. Gabrielle Keiller travelled to Scotland to spend the latter sum; the other buyers were Joanna Drew and Lord Dufferin. It is encouraging that the Scottish grant has been increased to £1500 (with £200 for expenses) for 1978-9 and that the Arts Council of Great Britain has again offered £5000 to the society. We ourselves have given the 1978 buyers a sum similar to that allocated in 1977.
Several of the 90 public galleries that belong to the society have increased their subscriptions in recognition of inflation. Unfortunately the same pressures have forced several others to cancel their membership. It is especially sad that this should happen just as our next distribution of work draws near; it will take place in mid-1979. The number of individual members has gone up to over 1350. So have subscriptions, from the beginning of 1978, as I forecast must occur in my last annual report. So far, I am glad to say, very few members have failed to renew their subscriptions and I trust that our friends will remain with us, that those who can will continue to subscribe more than the minimum and that all of them will encourage others to join.
The chief benefit of membership is that it enables you to be a patron of the visual arts, to contribute to the national heritage of the future. But there are other benefits as is shown by our list of events in 1977. A charge is made for all of these and profits are used for buying pictures and sculpture. The year began with a visit to the new buildings of St. Thomas’s Hospital with its large collection of modern art, arranged by the architect, Eugene Rosenberg, who is also a member of the society. In May we visited a group of artists’ studios in a lovely setting on the river at Hammersmith Terrace; those who welcomed us included Julian Trevelyan and Mary Fedden, Evelyn Gibbs, Barbara Brown, Ron Nixon, and Jo and Michael Pattrick; we also saw Monika Kinley’s collection on Hammersmith Bridge. In June Alec Gregory-Hood most generously entertained about 100 members to lunch at his house near Stratford-on-Avon, with a collection of contemporary painting and a garden full of modern sculpture; in the same neighbourhood we also visited Sir John Wiggin and Captain and Mrs. James West; both own exceptionally attractive houses and… (see pdf link below for full text)
List of Purchases for the year 1977
Buyer: Joanna Drew
Marc Chaimowitz, Dream, 1977 (photomontage)
Fay Godwin, Sheepfold, Aberedw Hill (black and white photograph)
Fay Godwin, Desert of Wales (black and white)
Derek Hirst, Shaft No I I , 1974 (cryla on wood)
John Harper, Vertical Catchment A (7 photographs)
John Harper, Catchment No 13 (drawing)
John Harper, Physical drawing No 12 (drawing)
Malcolm Hughes, 3 Units: No 2, 1977 (drawing, painting, relief maquette)
Alan Johnston, “For Sorley McLean’s Dain de Einhir” (4 pencil drawings)
Bill Jacklin, “Anemones”, 1977-(38/40) (7 etchings)
Andrew Lanyon, Chapel (oil)
David Mindline, Sear House Tree (photograph)
Carl Plackman, Relationships, 1977 (charcoal and wash)
Nicholas Pope, 2 thin stones — Mr and Mrs Arnolfini (sculpture)
Michael Sandle, Artillery battery, 1976 (ed 60) (etching)
Michael Sandle, Submarine Monument with discs, 1976 (etching)
Ian Stephenson, Sfumato, 1963-1965 (oil)
Gerald Wilde, Abstract 11 (gouache)
Buyer: Lord Dufferin
Stephen Buckley, Passage 1977 (oil and canvas on wood)
Kenneth Dingwall, Layer II (pencil on card)
Kenneth Dingwall, Grey layers (pencil/acrylic on card)
Brian Falconbridge, Untitled No 6, 1975 (wood)
Brian Falconbridge, Untitled No 7, 1976 (sculpture, mixed media)
Nigel Henderson, Face at the Window 1, 1977 (oil and photograph)
Ben Johnson, Lock, 1977 (acrylic Liquitex)
John Loker, Single extracts 1, 1976-1977 (acrylic)
Ian McKeever, Near Cromer, Norfolk, Summer 1977 (pencil on paper and photograph)
Noel Myles, Untitled, 1977 (oil)
Victor Newsome, Medicine Chest, 1975 (acrylic on wood)
Martin Naylor, Study on the death of innocence (photograph and paint on card)
David Tindle ARA, Still life with tall stool (egg tempera)
Nicholas de Ville, Still life with stool and books, 1977 (wire, pigment, resin on board)
Buyer: Gabrielle Keiller
Ian Hamilton Finlay, “Someone Somewhere” (screenprint)
Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 Sails (Glass poem)
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Sea poppy I (Glass poem)
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Sea poppy II (Glass poem)
John Kirkwood, Tank in Desert (photomontage)
John Kirkwood, Tank coming ashore (photomontage)
John Kirkwood, Operation with electrodes (drawing on photomontage)
John Kirkwood, Operation with cones and tubes (drawing on photomontage)
Eileen Lawrence, “Scroll 2 ” , 1977 (water-colour drawing)
Eileen Lawrence, Prayer Stick, 1977 (water-colour drawing)
Glen Onwin, “Recovery of Dissolved Objects” (8 photomontages)
Loans made by the Society during 1977
Barrie Cook drawing to the Welsh Arts Council
Howard Hodgkin painting to the Midland Group’s exhibition “Towards another Picture”
Group of paintings to Milton Keynes Corporation
Paintings to the Open University
Thirty-one paintings to the King’s Lynn Festival
Fifteen works to the West Oxfordshire Association Exhibition, Bampton
Thirty-nine works on paper to Contemporary Art Society exhibition “Works on Paper” at the Diploma Galleries and subsequent Arts Council Tour.
Gifts to the Society
From Alistair McAlpine, water-colour “Table Top with silhouette” by Bill Jacklin
From an anonymous donor, oil painting “Ayorou” by Madeleine Pearson.
Gifts from the Society
To the British Museum, three nude figure-studies (drawings) by Isaac Rosenberg.
To download the Contemporary Art Society Report 1977 (pdf) click here