Press Release: Flesh, nudity and the body take centre-stage in latest Contemporary Art Society display

10 July 2013 By
John Stezaker, Fall XIII (detail) 1992, collage, 17.7 x 10.4cm. © the artist and The Approach
John Stezaker, Fall XIII (detail) 1992, collage, 17.7 x 10.4cm. © the artist and The Approach

10 July 2013

Public Display: 4 September – 4 October

Artist Talk (John Stezaker): 12 September, 19.00 (booking required)

Nude collages by influential British artist John Stezaker are to go on display at the Contemporary Art Society’s space at 59 Central Street from September, along with a number of other works responding to flesh and the body. Stezaker won the prestigious Deutsche Börse photography prize in 2012 and has played a highly significant role in key artistic developments of the last three decades. Using found photographs, film magazines, vintage postcards and illustrations, Stezaker is well-known for his collages involving tears, cuts, insertions and maskings, and he has been instrumental in championing appropriation art and the reemergence of collage.

Two collages by Stezaker, Fall XII and Fall XIII (both 1992), were recently purchased for York Art Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society, the Art Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Taken from Stezaker’s anatomical nudes series, these works will be shown alongside other works from York’s permanent collection that focus on nudity, flesh and the body, including a number of paintings by William Etty (1787 -1849). Etty’s life studies provide an interesting contrast to Stezaker’s collages of male and female bodies and this is the first time these works have ever been shown together.

Other works from York’s collection on display include a drawing by Berlinde De Bruyckere and part of Helen Chadwick’s autobiographical work Ego Geometria Sum. These works, along with the Stezaker works on display, were purchased by York Art Gallery through Renew, a funding scheme set up by the Art Fund.

Sophia Bardsley, Deputy Director of the Contemporary Art Society, said: “Our unrivalled relationships with museums, built up over 100 years, ensure that we have developed an in-depth knowledge of museum collections in the UK and how these collections can be enriched and enlivened through gifting new works. This unique display draws attention to York’s growing collection of art that examines artistic responses to the body and flesh, from William Etty to the present day. We are delighted to have been able to further enhance this collection with two nudes by John Stezaker, such an important figure in British contemporary art.”

For all press enquiries, please contact:
Jenny Prytherch, Communications Manager, Contemporary Art Society
+44 (0)20 7017 8412


Notes to Editors:


The Contemporary Art Society is a national charity that encourages an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art in the UK. With the help of our members and supporters we raise funds to purchase works by new artists which we give to museums and public galleries where they are enjoyed by a national audience; we broker significant and rare works of art by important artists of the twentieth century for public collections through our networks of patrons and private collectors; we establish relationships to commission artworks and promote contemporary art in public spaces; and we devise programmes of displays, artist talks and educational events. Since 1910 we have donated over 8,000 works to museums and public galleries – from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore in their day through to the influential artists of our own times – championing new talent, supporting curators, and encouraging philanthropy and collecting in the


David Hockney 5 JUNE – 16 AUGUST
The Contemporary Art Society recently gifted David Hockney’sA Rake’s Progress (1961–3) to the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, as a bequest from Dr. Ronald Lande in memory of his life partner Walter Urech. We are delighted to present the entire set of 16 prints this summer. This seminal work is a semi-autobiographical story about Hockney, the ‘rake’, and the down and outs of his life in New York in the early 1960s. Its format, story and numbering system are based on William Hogarth’s 1735 suite of prints of the same title. Where Hogarth’s 18th century prints illustrate the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, Hockney’s work tells the story of the rake arriving in New York through to his eventual fate in Bedlam, a place of the mindless masses of the ‘other people’.

Data brings together a sequence of works by Salvatore Arancio, James Brooks, Leo Fitzmaurice, Helen Kincaid, Noa Lidor and Tom Richards that explore systems of knowledge and information. Interrogating scientific disciplines, the works investigate the potential for data to be manipulated and re-invented through obstruction, deletion and imitation. Curated by Shiri Shalmy.

John Stezaker 4 SEPTEMBER – 4 OCTOBER
Artist talk: 12 SEPTEMBER

Pop Flavours: The Eric & Jean Cass Gift 16 OCTOBER – 22 NOVEMBER
In 2012 the Contemporary Art Society distributed Eric and Jean Cass’s rich and eclectic collection of modern and contemporary art to seven museums and galleries in the UK. To continue our celebration this outstanding philanthropic act this autumn we will reflect on the impact of the Gift on Wolverhampton Art Gallery.  The Gallery has one of the best collections of Pop Art in the UK, with works by Eduardo Paolozzi, Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney, it was initiated by the vision of curator David Rogers in the 1960s and 1970s. The display will focus on how through the Eric and Jean Cass Gift, Wolverhampton not only developed their Pop collection with major works by British artist Allen Jones, but also formed a new focus on the impact of European artists on the UK Pop movement, with works by Victor Vasarely and Karel Appel.

Laure Prouvost 4 DECEMBER – 17 JANUARY
Turner Prize nominated artist Laure Prouvost’s work moves between film, performance, sound and site-specific installation. It often plays with the relationship between director, performer, audience and the architecture of viewing.  Last year the Contemporary Art Society purchased Monolog for the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester. This video, which won the 56th Oberhausen Short Film Principal Prize in 2010, is a witty and direct challenge to the notion of the artist’s identity and institutional regulations imposed upon the viewing of art and the behaviour of a supposedly captive audience. At a time when the Whitworth is embarking upon a redevelopment of its gallery spaces, Prouvost’s work was a timely addition to the gallery’s rich and varied collection of historic and contemporary art. Monolog will be shown at the Contemporary Art society alongside a selection of recent work by Provoust.

John Stezaker studied at the Slade School of Art, and currently teaches Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art in London. In September 2012, he was awarded the Deutsche Börse photography prize. Stezaker’s work has been exhibited internationally since the 1990’s and has been purchased by Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Saatchi Collection, London, and the Tate Modern, London. Recent solo exhibitions include: John Stezaker: One on One, Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; The Approach, London, UK (2013); Galerie Gisela Captain, Cologne, Germany (2012); The Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK then touring to MUDAM, Luxembourg, and Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, USA; Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York, USA (2011).

The collection at York Art Gallery dates from the 14th century to the present day with notable works by Parmigianino, Frans Snyders, Francis Cotes, JMW Turner, Paul Nash and L.S. Lowry. Alongside a large collection of Old Master Paintings, there is a strong group of 17th and 18th century British portraits, Victorian narrative paintings and early 20th century paintings by artists of the Camden Town Group. The inspiration for York Art Gallery’s capsule Flesh collection was from their extensive holdings of York born William Etty R.A. (1787-1849), one of the most prolific and successful artists working in the first half of the 19th century. Inspired by artists like Rubens and Titian, he was best known for his nudes and history paintings, but he also painted many landscapes and portraits. He was celebrated by contemporaries as ‘one of the finest specimens of historical talent that the English school has yet produced’, revered for his ‘vigorous performances’ and admired for his skill as a colourist.

The two paintings on display at the Contemporary Art Society by Etty, The Wrestlers (1835-45) and Male Nude with Staff(1814-16) reveal the importance for Etty of painting from life. Male Nude with Staff is a study to capture the angles of a figure, whilst Wrestlers depicts the energy and exertion of two figures clasped together.  Both are painted in a style typical of Etty, with a strong background colour allowing a contrast with the flesh tones of the figure.

Also on display are York Art Gallery’s recent purchase Romeu ‘my deer’ (2010) by Flemish artist Berlinde De Bruyckere.  De Bruyckere’s drawings and hyper real sculptures deal with death and transfiguration. She takes inspiration from a broad number of sources from literature and film history to old masters as Lucas Cranach and Antonello da Messina. The antlers, depicted in Romeu ‘my deer’, are a recent motif for the artist and are intended to summon the fate of Actæon who was turned into a stag by the Goddess Diana before swiftly being torn to death by his own hounds.

Helen Chadwick (1953-1996), one of the most significant British artists to have emerged in the 1980s is the latest artist to be added to York’s collection. Ego Geometria Sum (1982-4), is an autobiographical work in which she charted her growth from premature birth up to the age of 30 by means of geometric sculptures and photographs. The material reveals the twists and turns of Chadwick’s imagination as well as latent meanings, which she never exposed or publicised. From this series of works York Art Gallery have recently acquired the sculptureEgo Geometria Sum IV:  Boat, age 2 years (1983).

The £8 million development of York Art Gallery will create more than 60 per cent more exhibition space and establishing a Centre for British Studio ceramics.The development will create a suite of three galleries to show more ambitious and high profile exhibitions, the creation of double the existing learning space and a new art gallery gardens, which will link to the existing York Museum Gardens. A newly built first floor South Gallery and a new gallery in the original Victorian roof space will become the home for the gallery’s nationally important ceramic collections. The gallery closed on December 31 2012 for the development which will be finished in Easter 2015.

The Art Fund is the national charity for art, helping UK museums and galleries to buy, show and share art. Over the past 5 years, the Art Fund has given £24 million to buy art and supported a range of projects and programmes aimed at helping more people enjoy art. It is independently funded by nearly  100,000 supporters who purchase a National Art Pass, costing from just £37.50, which gives free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50% off major exhibitions.

Renew is a scheme set up by the Art Fund to enable museums and galleries to build new collections of art, funded thanks to a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. As part of theRenew scheme, York Art Gallery was awarded £100,000 to create a collection of contemporary fine art with a focus on flesh and artists’ responses to the human body, inspired by and providing a contemporary feel to their excellent collection of works by William Etty. The works by John Stezaker, Berlinde de Bruyckere and Helen Chadwick presented to York throughRenew represent the beginnings of this collection.