BRAVE NEW VISIONS: THE ÉMIGRÉS WHO TRANSFORMED THE BRITISH ART WORLD
This summer, Sotheby’s will host a major new exhibition Brave New Visions: The Émigrés who transformed the British Art World to tell the story of the pioneering émigré dealers and publishers who revolutionised Britain’s art world. Part of Insiders / Outsiders (a nationwide, year-long festival celebrating refugees from Nazi Europe and their indelible contribution to British culture), the exhibition, open from 17 July to 9 August will illustrate the histories and vision of these art world luminaries and highlights their profound influence and impact.
About the Exhibition
Brave New Visions shows how in bleak post-war London, a group of émigrés who had found sanctuary in Britain in the 1930s re-made their lives and introduced avant-garde European and British artists such as Naum Gabo, Oskar Kokoschka, Kurt Schwitters, Graham Sutherland and Ben Nicholson to the broader public.
Featuring over 40 paintings and sculptures, alongside unique documentary material, the exhibition reveals the story of a displaced community that thrived in an unfamiliar environment, and brings to light the little-explored narrative that binds the founders of what are now some of the best known establishments on the London art scene, including Marlborough Fine Art, Crane Kalman Gallery, Annely Juda Fine Art and Gimpel Fils. Highlights of the exhibition include anti-fascist works by George Grosz and John Heartfield, one of Reg Butler’s studies For the Unknown Political Prisoner, Francis Bacon’s Figure in Sea and work by Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud.
Sir Nicholas Serota, a patron of the Insiders/Outsiders Festival, comments: ‘The arrival of two generations of refugees from Nazi Europe, amongst them artists, art historians, publishers and dealers, transformed British society and the British art world. They brought direct experience of a more cosmopolitan world in which the arts played a central role in everyday life and first hand engagement with some of the most exciting developments of the European avant-garde. Their presence totally changed the intellectual climate in Britain and paved the way for a much more dynamic art world in the post-war period.’
Brave New Visions is curated by Sue Grayson Ford MBE, founder of the Serpentine Gallery, assisted by Cherith Summers. Sue comments: ‘Eighty years after the outbreak of World War Two, this is a timely reminder of what refugees have brought, and continue to bring, to their adopted homeland. It reveals how the vision of the émigré dealers and publishers helped to make London one of the most important centres for modern and contemporary art.
Simon Hucker, Senior Specialist, Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art, says: ‘We are absolutely delighted to be able to lend our support to Brave New Visions: we see the names of these legendary dealers on the backs of important works all the time, so we’ve always been aware of their major contribution to the British art scene in the post-war years - especially though their support of young, emerging artists who were looking for new means of expression to reflect very changed times. In the current political climate, it feels all the more pressing that we look back and remember that the art we now take for granted only had the opportunity to survive and flourish through the vision and hard work of a small band of people who had come to our shores as refugees.’
Cover photo: Andras Kalman outside his Manchester Gallery with Graham Sutherland's Standing Figure 1954.