To celebrate The London Group’s momentous centenary year in 2013, Ben Uri and The London Group are working together with two simultaneous exhibitions. Ben Uri has curated and is hosting a major historical exhibition, “Uproar!”: The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963, examining the first half century in the group’s turbulent history, while The London Group is holding a separate, complementary, contemporary exhibition showcasing work by its current members at The Cello Factory, London SE1 8TJ.
The London Group exploded onto the British art scene in 1913 as a radical alternative to the art establishment and in the wake of two modernist exhibiting platforms, Frank Rutter's liberal Allied Artists’ Association and The Camden Town Group, headed by Walter Sickert, whose members the new group absorbed. The first minuted meeting took place on 25 October 1913, and Jacob Epstein is credited with coining the Group's name the following month. The opening of the two centenary shows coincides closely with these two significant dates.
The London Group’s controversial early years reflect the upheavals associated with the introduction of early British modernism and the experimental work of many of its members. The ‘uproar’ which followed Mark Gertler’s exhibition of The Creation of Eve at The London Group’s third show in 1915 lends its name to the Ben Uri show, which showcases 50 works by 50 artists. Wherever possible, Ben Uri has selected the most debated works, whether from within its own collection or outside it.
In the Media
Spectator, 7 Feb 2014. "The Ben Uri gallery punches above its weight" according to Andrew Lambirth reviewing Uproar! "Its exhibition on the London Group is a show many larger public institutions would be proud to have put on."
Courtauld Institute of Art, 13 Jan 2014. Percy Darukhanawala of the Courtauld Institute writes, "for an informative, entertaining and cogent introduction to Modern British art ...it's worth taking heed of 'Uproar!'"
3quarksdaily.com, 13 Jan 2014. 'Uproar!' is a "fascinating exhibition that shows the ferment ...and the rather undervalued richness of British art in the first half of the 20th century", comments Sue Hubbard.
Evening Standard, 9 Jan 2014. Brian Sewell comments on the Ben Uri "exhibition of English paintings (and a handful of small sculptures) with which most of us would be content to live." He also extols the "splendid catalogue".
The Times, 4 Jan 2014. John Russell Taylor writes of the exhibition, "the dramatis personae of the show are amazing; it constitutes virtually a Who's Who of significant British art in the Twenties and Thirties".
Jewish News One (JN1), 27 Dec 2013. Ben Uri is a "hidden gem" and Cindy Martin of JN1 says, "from its humble East End roots" it has become "one of the most important galleries in the British capital". She was at the gallery interviewing staff about Uproar!
Time Out, 12 Dec 2013. It is the "... the tangled ferment of conflicting ideas and approaches, that’s most fascinating" according to reviewer Gabriel Coxhead commenting on the exhibition of the first fifty years of the London Group, the "avant-garde alternative to institutions like the Royal Academy".
The Independent, 5 Dec 2013. "If you only see one thing today", the Independent writes, see the Uproar! Exhibition: "A celebration of the Modernist exhibiting society... that took aim at the staid, conservative domination of the Royal Academy".
Country Life, 27 Nov 2013. "... a visit to Ben Uri is a must for everyone interested in the development of 20th-century British art ..." declares Peyton Skipwith in his article "London Pride", and further commends the " ... splendid accompanying catalogue ..."
Ham & High, 21 Nov 2013. Alison Oldham enjoyed the "clever" exhibition, particularly Eileen Agar's work Modern Muse (1931-4) for its "confrontational, stylised head... simultaneously tribal and archaic".
Apollo Magazine, 19 Nov 2013. Matthew Sperling commented that there is " the sense of an ongoing series of debates about style and modernist aesthetics" in the Uproar! exhibition.
Forward.com, 12 Nov 2013. A "powerful exhibition" according to Anne Joseph, "encompassing many of the greats of modern British art".
Camden Review, 7 Nov 2013. "Like opening a favourite box of chocolates" wrote Isabel H Langtry about the "beautifully curated environment" in the Uproar! exhibition.
Financial Times Magazine, 4 Nov 2013. Jackie Wullschlager commented that the exhibition shows the "immigrant impulse ... directing the British avant-garde".
The Flaneur, 1 Nov 2013. "The exhibition is an education in the development of British Art history." says Flaneur, with "visual highlights from the period in all media".
The Culture Trip, 2013. "Wherever possible, Ben Uri has selected the most intensely debated works",observes Helen Brady.
BBC News, 4 Nov 2013. Will Gompertz, BBC News Arts Editor, interviewed Ben Uri curator, Sarah MacDougall in front of the Uproar! exhibition, regarding the recently discovered 1500 works of Nazi-looted art in Germany. Hans Feibusch featured at Ben Uri was also represented in Hitler's notorious Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937.
Channel 4 News, 4 Nov 2013. Reporter Cordelia Lynch interviewed Ben Uri curator Rachel Dickson at the Ben Uri Uproar! exhibition about the stash of art discovered in Munich. Rachel Dickson pointed out that Hitler labelled many modernist works as anti-German and anti-patriotic.
Guardian Art Weekly, 1 Nov 2013. Jonathan Jones' blog notes the "powerful artists of the early 20th century" represented.
RA Magazine, 1 Nov 2013. Uproar! is one of art events of the week chosen by Sam Phillips for the Royal Academy's Magazine.
The exhibition features artists and works which highlight each decade covering the full range of its history: The London Group’s inception; its Camden Town Group roots, the controversy of the early (particularly First World War) years, Bloomsbury domination in the 1920s; the strong showing of Jewish artists, women artists; Official War Artists; the participation of émigré artists during the 1930s-40s; the ‘shadow of the right’ during the 1930s, avant-garde sculptors, and the contribution of artists’ groups, ranging from the Vorticists to the Surrealists, the Abstract-Creationists and the Euston Road School. Featured artists include ground-breaking early modernists such as Sickert, Fry, Gaudier-Brzeska, Nash, Wadsworth, and more recently, Hepworth, Moore, Chadwick and Kossoff, as well as less-known but equally controversial figures such as Eileen Agar, Rodrigo Moynihan and Jessica Dismorr.
Ben Uri has strong links with The London Group since a significant number of the artists in its collection were involved in the Group’s inception and earliest exhibitions. Prominent among these were many of the ‘Whitechapel Boys’: David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, Jacob Kramer and Bernard Meninsky.
Works have been loaned from prestigious public and private collections across the UK. Institutional lenders include: Aberdeen Art Gallery; the British Council; the British Museum; the Courtauld Gallery; Graves Gallery, Sheffield; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; the Hepworth Wakefield; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Leeds City Art Gallery; the Lowry, Salford; Manchester City Art Gallery; New Walk Museum & Gallery, Leicester; Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Services; Pallant House, Chichester; Southampton City Art Gallery; the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery at University of Leeds; Stoke on Trent Art Gallery & Museum; Tate; the V&A; the Whitworth Manchester; and the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead; as well as Annely Juda Fine Art, the Ruth Borchard Collection via Piano Nobile, Ben Uri’s own collection, and a number of rarely-accessed private collections.
The current London Group
In a complementary exhibition (click on the image to see the slideshow), the current London Group will be exhibiting from 16 November to 13 December at the Cello Factory, London SE1 8TJ. The London Group Today exhibition connects contemporary artists to their historical counterparts. Each work on display is a response by a current London Group member to an early work by a past member on show in Ben Uri's exhibition: "Uproar!" the first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 200-page fully-illustrated hardback catalogue distributed by Lund Humphries. Contributors provide contextual entries for each of the 50 works, in tandem with introductory essays by a number of distinguished scholars in the field of modern British art. The "Uproar!" catalogue is available here.
We are very grateful for the support of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art towards exhibition research and the exhibition publication.