Modern British Art 2020
It is a year since our last Modern British exhibition, and no one could have predicted to what extent our lives would be changed in recent months. Like any other gallery we have had to quickly adapt to a new world, learn how to present our inventory in new and creative ways, and plan for better times. We have certainly been busy, and there is no doubt that the fundamentals of our business remain strong, with record levels of enquiries. We have managed to find new and ingenious ways to show our inventory to collectors and hopefully the situation is becoming easier, and at least allows us to open the gallery. Art fairs will not happen for a while and we know how much everyone looks forward to Masterpiece, Frieze, Tefaf and the other fairs. In the meantime we will continue our gallery programme with this Modern British exhibition and later in the year a Henry Moore exhibition and two projects with the John Craxton estate to accompany Ian Collins’s new biography to be published by Yale University Press.
Every year our Modern British exhibition and catalogue has become the highlight of our summer season, on show at the gallery and then normally at Masterpiece. We keep back our best new acquisitions for the exhibition and add to that loans from the estates we represent as well as consignments from collectors. This year is no exception and the exhibition includes some notable sculptures and paintings of the post war period not seen in the market for a very long time. In addition this year we have commissioned a series of short informative essays by the art historian Judith LeGrove. Although Masterpiece is sadly not happening this year, the exhibition will be installed in the gallery and available to view throughout the summer. We are also quite happy to arrange for collectors to view at home, our art handlers are providing us with this service. Everything is of course done safely and sensibly.
Looking back over the key events in our calendar since last year an undoubted highlight of the summer of 2019 was the biggest ever museum exhibition of Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking, curated by Gordon Samuel at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery. It is rare for a gallery Director to curate a museum exhibition on this scale and record numbers came to visit, with substantial media coverage and no less than 5000 copies of the exhibition publication sold to visitors. The exhibition charted the beginnings of avant-garde British printmaking during the early 20th century leading to the emergence of the colour linocuts made at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, led by Claude Flight and his ‘students’ including Sybil Andrews, Cyril Power, Lill Tschudi and for the first time outside Australia, the three Australian linocutters Dorrit Black, Eveline Syme and Ethel Spowers who made a significant contribution to the popularity of the colour linocut.
The main event in our summer programme at the gallery was Myth Mortality and the Male Figure, the fourth in our series of exhibitions devoted to the life and work of Keith Vaughan. Gerard Hastings, the leading Vaughan scholar, contributed a series of brilliant personal commentaries on the pictures in the exhibition, which included the artist’s masterpiece, Theseus and the Minotaure from 1950. Interest in the work of Keith Vaughan is undiminished and he is now firmly established as one of the most important post war British artists. Incidentally Philip Vann and Gerard Hastings’s definitive monograph on the artist is available from the gallery, as well as our exhibition catalogues. These have been consistent best sellers from our bookstore (online at www.osbornesamuel.com)
October saw us return to the British Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery, at the same time as Frieze Masters where we once again collaborated with David Koetser Gallery, combining our sculpture with his Old Master paintings. This unusual juxtaposition proved very successful, such dialogues across disciplines are becoming increasingly popular.
Also, in October we delivered the long-awaited Lynn Chadwick exhibition, with a number of previously unseen works and an exceptional collection of early unique sculptures, including a group of sculptures and works on paper gifted by the artist in the early 1960s and not seen publicly before. This show proved to be the most successful of the six Chadwick exhibitions we have done over the last 30 years. Our commitment to post war British sculpture forms an essential part of our portfolio, we are known for our core specialism in Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick and the present exhibition also includes important works by Armitage, Butler, Hepworth and Mitchell.
We completed our 2019 programme with a substantial exhibition of new work by Brendan Burns. We also exhibited in Miami in December for the 30th time, then at the London Art Fair in January 2020 and at BRAFA Brussels. The pandemic took hold in March and sadly TEFAF Maastricht was cut short, putting an end to our Spring programme. Our TEFAF presentation was as strong as ever and it was sad to disappoint so many people who couldn’t visit.
Since the lock down we have inevitably limited our activities, but still managed to produce Nash and Nevinson: Impressions of War and Peace which is installed at the gallery. This is a remarkable show of some of the most important and iconic prints from the First World War. The catalogue for the show is now available and we will keep the exhibition up long enough for those who want to see it live.
We also contributed to a substantial exhibition to mark the 800th anniversary of Salisbury Cathedral. Curated by Jacquiline Creswell the cathedral’s visual arts adviser, the installation inside and outside the cathedral includes works by Gormley, Wallinger, Shawcross, Moore, Chadwick, Cragg and many others. The installation was completed just before the lock down started and we fervently hope that very soon visitors will be able to see the exhibition. We arranged the loan of a large Grayson Perry tapestry and the life size Daedalus bronze by Paolozzi. The show has been extended until the end of the year and a virtual tour and an extensive catalogue are available.
Footprint Innovations have completely redesigned our website to provide a clearer presentation and more detail and this has now been re-launched complete with a new viewing room where we will store exhibition tours, artist videos and talks. There is also a bookstore with all our exhibition catalogues and the many books on our artists which we have published or promoted.
At the time of writing no one knows how the pandemic will play out, and we will all have to adapt to this new world. We will do all we can to continue our programme and invest in the artists in which we specialize. We look forward to a Henry Moore show in October and already have secured a number of important sculptures and drawings for this. In 2021 we plan two projects to coincide with Ian Collins’s new biography on John Craxton, with an exhibition which will feature Craxton’s early work before he left London for Greece in 1946. The show will include hitherto unseen drawings by Lucian Freud who shared a house with John Craxton in the mid 1940s and six-months together on the Greek island of Poros. Freud returned to London and Craxton made his life in Greece, on the island of Crete.
We all look forward to seeing you somewhere soon and can assure you that our shared passion for the art and artists we deal in remains undiminished.
Peter Osborne, Gordon Samuel
and Tania Sutton, May 2020