Galleries - February 2011

artist Charles Tunnicliffe’s studio at Christie’s in 1981. Purchased vir- tually whole by Anglesey Borough Council – Tunnicliffe had lived and worked on the island at Malltraeth for 35 years – this precipitated the building ofthe new gallery to house the collection that the Queen opened in October 1991. A full programme of rebuilding and refurbishment soon followed, in- cluding a gallery dedicated to Tun- nicliffe’s old admirer and pro- tagonist (and prime mover behind the scenes on both the purchase and the gallery itself), Kyffin Williams, which opened in 2008. Much else has happened since then as Welsh art has gone through a remarkable renaissance in that time, something the gallery has done much to encourage. Quite appropriately the anniver- sary year’s major shows pay trib- ute to these remarkable men – the first, Shorelands’ Summer Diary, traces Tunnicliffe’s first summer on Anglesey in the 1940s, the second Kyffin Williams’ expedition to Patagonia in 1968-69, to record the lives and histories ofthe Wesh community there, the third por- traying both men’s unique rela- tionship with Anglesey. Another interesting history! PASSING THE BATON There might be economic doom and gloom in the air but there seems to be no slowing up in the number of new galleries around the country opening up or re- ing, among other things, as a base for the then newly estab- lished Young Contemporaries ex- hibitions and thus one of the places where the emerging young artists of that booming generation first got to show. Its prime task was, of course, as with the FBA, to provide a viable home for the many specialist exhibiting soci- eties from the Victorian and Ed- wardian period that were strugg- ling to survive the harsh economic conditions of austerity London. The fact that it is still a thriving home to eight of them is a marvel- lous testament to both his and his successors’ vision and tenacity. Lester and his colleagues have come up with an absolutely crack- ing exhibition too, using each of these societies’ distinguished his- tories as a point of departure for a really handsome survey (entitled Pure Gold) of late 19th and 20th C. British art. With the names ranging from Sickert, Whistler, John and Sargent to Nevinson, Nash and Bomberg and loans from pubic and private collections – many of them first-timers – this is just the kind of juicy, and significant, show to lift those winter blues. On a more modest scale but, in the context of recent Welsh art his- tory, barely less important, are An- glesey-based Oriel Ynys Mon ’s 20th birthday celebrations, also starting this year. In fact the gallery’s history goes back ten years before this and the dramatic events surrounding the proposed dispersal sale of the entire con- tents of the celebrated wildlife ANTENNAE 8. GALLERIES FEBRUARY 11 SIGNIFICANT HISTORIES Regular readers of this magazine will probably recognise the theme but it never ceases to amaze me what a neglected subject the so- cial history of 20th C. British Art has always been. We know plenty now about the artists of the period but try to find out anything about the institutional and commercial structures they had to operate within, the patronage they enjoyed (or didn’t) and so on and you are soon reduced to a small handful of books. All of which makes Anthony Lester’s typically well re- searched publication on the hist- ory of the Federation of British Artists, brought out to accompany their splendid 50th anniversary show this month, particularly wel- come. For example, try googling Maurice Bradshaw, the prime mover in its establishment in 1961, not to mention its direct predeces- sor, the Art Exhibitions’ Bureau in Suffolk Street, and only the very sketchiest and passing of refer- ences comes up for either. Be- tween them they were important players in the immediate post-war London art scene, the place act-