Galleries - July 2015

Anthony Green RA. Quite apart from the good company, the submissions were of such a high standard that one felt really quite hopeful for the future. It certainly also had something to to with director Jill Hutching’s clever idea of promising a full gallery show to the winner (as well as £1000) and that moment has now come round with the eventual winner, Alison Elliott’s exhibition there this month. As you can see here, her superb contemporary take on Stubbs’ horse paintings making her a real talent to watch –head and shoulders above any other examples I’ve seen recently in their individualism and passion. Bella Bello And finally – Muse at 269 Gallery in Portobello Road, is pro-actively encouraging young graduate artists by offering a subsidised platform for candidates’ group and solo shows. Meanwhile through the year Muse is open to community arts projects, musicians, film makers and live performers. Very lively by the sound of it. From 2 July in the gallery you will find the expressionist abstrac- tions of young (17 year old) Ger- man ‘prodigy’ Leon Löwentraut. Out of Chaos With the disastrous battles and gas attacks around Ypres having just taken place in 1915, it is hard to imagine a more difficult moment to start up a new art society in London, not least in the Whitechapel ghetto. But that’s exactly what a group of émigré Jews did that very same month and here we are, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ben Uri , with a quite superb exhibition from its remarkable collections, on at the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House from 2 July. Entitled, aptly enough, ‘Out of Chaos’, it celebrates not only the extraordinary tenacity and vision of its founders but also the fact that, without the artistic and intellectual energy Jewish, largely émigré artists, brought to 20th C. British art, it is pretty safe to say, Britain would have remained an artistic backwater, today’s booming artistic scene a thing of fantasy. Think Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Joseph Hermann, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and R.B. Kitaj for starters and you begin to get the idea. The Ben Uri’s remarkable and dynamic survival as the oldest Jewish cultural organisation in the country, through often difficult circumstances, owes much to two key elements; the formation of a representative collection, today amounting to 1300 pieces by 392 artists from 35 countries and growing, and a unique intellectual raison d’être, that of addressing universal issues of identity and migration through the visual arts. It is the only art museum in Europe to do this and it also means, significantly, that the collection is not simply confined to British-based artists of Jewish descent but European as well – hence the presence in this exhibition of some superb recent purchases such as Soutine’s heart rending ‘La Soubrette’ (1933), George Grosz’s scarifying ‘The Interrogation’ (1936) and Chagall’s rediscovered response to the Holocaust ‘Apocalypse en Lilas, Capriccio’ (1945). Particular too, since its foundation, has been the prominence given to women artists within the collection, again well represented within this exhibition, some going back into the late 19th C. Indeed the only anomaly within the whole story of Ben Uri is the fact that it has the tiniest of exhibition spaces – essentially a small, converted commercial space in Boundary Road. What a marvellous thing it would be to think that, in this year of all years, it could find itself a more prominent base deserving of the collection. Past the Post One of last year’s most enjoyable and encouraging occasions for me was judging the Curwen Gallery Prize for Figurative Art with Sir Peter Blake and 10 GALLERIES JULY 2015 ANTENNAE from left: A lison Elliott ‘Visindar’ oil on canvas, at Curwen Gallery. Leon Löwentraut at Muse at 269 Gallery. Chaïm Soutine ‘La Soubrette’ 1933, oil on canvas, at Ben Uri