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  • London,UK

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020 7837 2000


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THE LONDON GROUP·SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2017
“A vital strand of artistic diversity and free-thinking in an art-world increasingly dominated by market forces and curatorial conformity.”
Nicholas Usherwood, Features Editor, Galleries Magazine

The London Group was set up in 1913 by thirty two artists including Robert Bevan, Henri Gaudier Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Lucien Pissarro and Walter Sickert, with the aim of creating a powerful artist-run group to act as a counter-balance to institutions such as the Royal Academy. The founding group created a unique structure for an organisation, that has gone on to successfully nurture the careers of many of Britain’s best-known artists.

The London Group Today

The London Group is a thriving democratic co-operative of artists practicing in all disciplines, from painting and sculpture to moving image and performance, with a full annual events programme in London and beyond.

The Group’s written constitution requires it “to advance public awareness of contemporary visual art by holding exhibitions annually.” Operating in the interstices between existing art institutions, the Group’s focus today is on self-generated exhibitions. Curated and managed by its artist members, these events aim to offer a serious and alternative perspective to contemporary visual arts in Britain.

“What The London Group seeks to show is that art’s inner strength (and thus its outer weakness) lies in the co-operative multiplication of differences beyond all ties to non-art interests.”
Mike Phillipson, The London Group

The London Group holds a prestigious biannual Open Exhibition where artists, at all stages of their careers, are invited to submit work to exhibit alongside members’.

Membership

Membership currently stands at just under ninety and criteria for membership are the quality of a maker’s emerging vision and commitment to the Group’s activities. As a co-operative the Group finds its strength in its encouragement of diversity. Indeed the Group’s very identity and long-term viability is vested in its embrace of the differences of vision displayed in its members’ work.

Existing members are eligible to nominate new members for election based on submission of their current work. The membership selection committee sits once a year.

The London Group currently holds many of its events at its unofficial headquarters, The Cello Factory, Waterloo, London.

  • About
The London Group was formed by an amalgamation of the Camden Town group and the English Vorticists in 1913.
  • General Information
The London Group is a thriving democratic co-operative of artists practicing in all disciplines, from painting and sculpture to moving image and performance, with a full annual events programme in London and beyond.

Contact Details

For all enquiries please email: enquiries@thelondongroup.com

Post: The London Group, PO Box 61045, London SE1 8RN

Press and PR for The London Group’s is handled by Artsinform Communications Ltd.

Press Contacts: Jessica Wood

Email: jessica@artsinform.co.uk

  • Founding date
1913
  • Products
Articles

1. “Why The London Group?” — Peter Clossick’s 2008 paper»

2. An article by Nicholas Usherwood »

3. A further article by Peter Clossick about the Group »

4. General information on The London Group »

Peter Clossick

The London Group is unusual in its ability, as one of the few remaining exhibiting societies from the early twentieth century to sustain its original principles and structure. It has survived through 90 years of art historical transience.

Unchanged since 1913, the open nature of the group and its inclusiveness encourages opportunities for all members, through the vehicle of the group’s mission;

“The object of the group shall be to advance public awareness of contemporary visual art by holding exhibition/s annually”

As a member, you know that you are within a body of artists who are interested in, and prioritise, others aesthetic qualities – regardless of your own personal direction. This is the strength of the group, to make space for another, because we all have chosen to elect and be elected by, to exhibit together as a whole regardless of the different factions that compose the group.

For an artist to become part of the London Group will be to value a plurality of viewpoints and to join in its illustrious history. A history that is ahistoric in outlook, as it is always part of the present, part of now. The group does not have hierarchies or notions of linear progression, but is rooted within the democratic principles of care and equality and is prepared to collaborate with any other organisation.

Nicholas Usherwood
Features Editor
Galleries Magazine February 2005

At a moment when there would seem to be more galleries – both public and private – more exhibition opportunities, more books, more information and, not least, greater levels of patronage for contemporary art than at any time in the last century, what possible rationale can there be now for the continuing existence of the London Group, an exhibiting society founded some 92 years ago with the simple (even simplistic) aim of “advancing public awareness of contemporary visual art by holding exhibition/s annually”? Surely the moment has passed, our exposure to a wide range of contemporary art making the need for such a group a complete irrelevance, while the battle for recognition and understanding, as far as contemporary art practice is concerned, would seem to be, more or less, over? Well, yes, in those simple, confrontational ways, all of this may well be largely true and yet, as my own daily experience of talking and meeting with artists, going to exhibitions, reading what’s written about them, talking to the people who go to see them, makes increasingly apparent, things aren’t at all what they seem to be, the spin newspapers, books and magazines, television and radio, not to mention curators and gallerists, give to the situation not, even remotely, beginning to square with the reality that such experiences actually brings.

Nor, it would seem, has done so for the 90-strong membership of the London Group either! Over the course of the last decade or more, through a process of lively internal debate, they have been coming to much the same sort of conclusion, namely that for all the size, scale, numbers and apparent ‘difference’ that would seem to characterise the current state of art in this country, the situation for artists and the facts governing most artists’ career paths has, in truth, stayed very much the same. The reasons why this should be so, I believe, find their focus principally in issues of artistic fashion and diversity. With the exception of a fractional percentage who have managed to achieve a continuing, almost lifelong, measure of institutional/ commercial support, most artists are well aware of how short-lived (and often hard-fought for) those moments of curatorial and critical support and commercial success can be. One look at this current show of the the London Group in its entirety, will reveal members whose work can be considered to fall into every kind of category, from that of those enjoying an almost lifelong success and those currently very much in fashion, to those now perhaps somewhat out of it and those yet perhaps to achieve it. What is, in fact, common to them all is the sense that, unlike the RA for example, the measure of membership within the London Group, is not so much concerned with some notional, fashionable idea of ‘success’ or ‘achievement’ but rather of respect for each other’s artistic integrity and respect as well as support for an artistic practice that, almost by definition, is very different from one’s own. Just looking at this show is evidence of such an assertion – from the conceptual and experimental through variations of abstraction from lyrical hard-edge, colour field and the painterly and organic to hard-won realism, figurative, landscape and narrative painting lies the kind of astonishingly rich and diverse cross-section of attitudes and approach to making two and three-dimensional work that places British art, to my mind at least, among the richest and most idiosyncratic in the Western tradition and makes the London Group a more representative artistic society than most in the UK.

It is, in short, an assertion of the importance the LG places on diversity, not simply because of the need to prevent the group from falling into the kind of cliquey-ness that has beset, and all but destroyed, the effectiveness of so many art groups in this country – as any good biologist will tell you, diversity represents future health and strength – but because, as perhaps only artists themselves understand from their daily practice, you never know who or what or when you are going to need someone or something next. In all of this, it has to be said, the LG runs very much counter to the prevailing orthodoxies of much current critical and curatorial practice which, with its emphasis on the primacy of the verbal discourse and its lack either of understanding or sympathy for painting, drawing or the made object as a medium of poetic and imaginative response – often, quite crudely, because they are not felt to be media capable of expressing ‘modern/contemporary’ means of working or modern ‘issues’ – has, once again, appeared to put painting back on the endangered species list. None of this would matter too much if such views had not become quite so all-prevailing within the London art-scene – but which art periodical can you now read to discover possible alternative ways of working, which contemporary art-space, public or private dares to differ, and, more seriously, which collectors have the nerve or the knowledgeable support to form their own, truly independent judgements? The London Group cannot, by itself, hope to change any of this but it can, and does, at the very least, provide some extremely healthy options to what is rapidly becoming a distinctly limited and unhealthy diet of globalised and commodified art, much, if not most of it, judging by the last Frieze Art Fair, looking virtually identical in form and concept.

In a recent paper, written by member Mike Phillipson in response to a debate about the group’s future, he saw its survival as lying in an ability ” to slip through the cracks in the global economy”, the London Group’s role as “a co-operative immediately distinguishing itself from the entrenched interests of the usual museum-gallery sites”, its very lack of a solid institutional base or identity with complex ties to state and economy a real advantage. As he shrewdly goes on to observe what the LG “seeks to show is that art’s inner strength (and thus its outer weakness) lies in the co-operative multiplication of differences beyond all ties to particular non-art interestsŠ and representing the virtues of the small, the light, the nimble, of surviving on the move, through its inventiveness in finding/creating alternative spaces.” This policy has, of course, already been under way very successfully, for some time and in some quantity, this show being the 18th since May 2001. It has, as well, in celebration of the Group’s 90th Birthday, also published on its own initiative, a substantial publication which, while recording something of the Group’s hugely distinguished history, quite typically, and rightly, also chose not to dwell overlong on past glories, giving the bulk of the space to the work of its current members and a discussion of future possibilities. It would be nice, to say the least, if just one of these were to include a major London institution and a curator with the passion and independence of spirit. It has been done, in living memory (well, mine anyway!) with shows in the R.A.’s Diploma Galleries in 1970/71, when I was a young exhibitions officer there, and two years later at the Whitechapel, and I notice also that the Tate presented its 50th Anniversary show in 1963. With its 100th coming up in 7 years or so, it would be nice to think of such a thing happening again perhaps! Meanwhile, lines from a passage Susan Wilson quotes in her book entry from the New Zealand writer Janet Frame, might well stand for both the individual and collective aims and aspirations of the group and its membership “Putting it all down as it happens is not fiction, there must be the journey by itself.”

About The London Group
Some general information
• The London Group is a thriving democratic co-operative of artists practising across the visual arts.

• Its singular object, unchanged since its foundation in 1913 as an alternative to the Royal Academy and the New English Art Club, is “to advance public awareness of contemporary visual art by holding exhibitions annually.”

• Entirely self-financed and self-managed it maintains a principled independence from art world interests. The Group has a simple and open constitution that allows for the flexible development of its activities in response to the changing context of artistic practice. Membership currently stands at just under a hundred. New members are elected annually by submission of current work. There is an annual subscription.

• Operating in the interstices between existing art institutions its focus is on its self-generated exhibitions. It has learned to live an inventive nomadic life. In spite of lacking a ‘home of its own’ it has sustained its unbroken exhibiting record since its inception. Venues for its exhibitions and activities are found and negotiated across London and beyond, recently Amsterdam and Hastings, and next year, Cardiff.

• Criteria for membership are the quality of a maker’s emerging vision and commitment to the Group’s activities. As a cooperative the Group finds its strength in its encouragement of diversity. Indeed the Group’s very identity and long-term viability is vested in its embrace of the differences of vision displayed in its members’ work.

• The Group’s current planning includes both full members’ exhibitions and smaller group shows at a range of venues including The Menier Gallery (Members’ annual show) in October 2008, and at The Cello Factory (sculptures and 3-D work) and The Morley Gallery (drawings) in early 2009.

• In the lead up to its centenary the Group is optimistic that, through a steady expansion of its activities, it can bring its members’ work to an ever-widening audience both in London and further afield.

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