Contemporary Art Society Report 1979

14 August 2015
Cover for the 1979 Contemporary Art Society Annual Report
Cover for the 1979 Contemporary Art Society Annual Report

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Executive Committee
Nancy Balfour OBE
Alistair McAlpine  Chairman
Lord Croft  Vice Chairman
Caryl Hubbard  Honorary Treasurer
Edward Lucie-Smith  Honorary Secretary
Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
Catherine Curran
Joanna Drew
Gabrielle Keiller
Bryan Montgomery
Geoffrey Tucker CBE
Alan Bowness CBE
Carol Hogben
Belle Shenkman
David Brown
Robin Campbell CBE
William Packer
Ann Sutton FSIAD
Edward Dawe
Muriel Wilson

Pauline Vogelpoel MBE The Director
Petronilla Spencer-Silver Organising Secretary

Committee Report for the year ended 31 December 1979
During the year Lady Vaizey and Anthony Diamond retired from the committee by rotation. Muriel Wilson and Edward Dawe were elected to the committee. The principal activities of the society are to promote the development of contemporary art and to acquire works by living artists for presentation to public collections in Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The society’s activities during the year resulted in a surplus of £29,893 at 31 December, 1979.

May 19,1980

Chairman’s Report
In 1979 the Contemporary Art Society did once again what it was created in 1910 to do: it presented 135 works by 101 artists of today to 89 public art galleries in Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Nearly all these pictures and sculptures had been acquired during the previous four years, some of them by gift or bequest but most of them by purchase with funds provided by subscriptions and donations from individual members, private trusts, business firms and public galleries, supplemented by grants from the Arts Councils of Great Britain and Scotland. For the first time the society’s exhibition of recent acquisitions was held outside London, very suitably since the chief beneficiaries are collections outside London. So we welcomed the opportunity offered by the Portsmouth City Museum and Art Gallery and are most grateful for the financial and other assistance which we received from the authorities there and for the enthusiasm and imaginative co-operation of the gallery’s staff.

The society’s exhibition “Art for Today”, which was opened by Sir Norman Reid, then Director of the Tate Gallery, was the contribution of the visual arts to the 1979 Portsmouth Festival and was held over until the Museums Association met in South Hampshire in July. At that time representatives of many of the public art galleries belonging to the society were able to see the works available and tell us which they would like to be given. The final allocation is listed later in this report; obviously there were some disappointments but 30 galleries received their first choice and 40 their second or third choice. In connection with recent reports that some local authorities are considering selling items from their museums, it should be mentioned that a gallery receiving a gift from the Contemporary Art Society is required to sign an undertaking that the gift will not be regarded as a disposable asset.

During last summer a questionnaire was circulated to member galleries (and answered by about half of them), asking for candid opinions on what the society had been doing recently and on what it should do in the future. These criticisms and suggestions have been fully discussed by the committee and drawn to the attention of our buyers. Particularly, and rightly, stressed was the necessity of purchasing only works of museum quality, by both established artists and promising unknowns; but also stressed was the outstanding contribution made by the society over the years to the modern collections of public galleries in all parts of Britain, especially those which have little or no purchase money of their own. The wide range of the society’s acquisitions and the independence of its buyers’ judgements were frequently commended and we were touched and also stimulated by the appreciation of what the society does and the recognition of its uniqueness. This has since been followed up in a practical way by several galleries which have increased their annual subscriptions and by several others, most of them from Scotland, which have joined for the first time, something which was hardly to be expected in a period when local authorities are being forced to economise drastically.

In recent years our buyers’ search for works of the highest quality has been hampered by lack of money. So I am happy to say that, after spending a record sum on pictures and sculptures in 1978, the society increased that spending by more than 50 per cent in 1979, to over £35,000. The chief buyers for the year were Lord Croft and Gabrielle Keiller, with Anthony Diamond travelling north to spend our Scottish purchase funds. Of the total sums that they had at their disposal, £18,250 came from the society’s own resources, with the rest being made up by purchase grants from the Arts Councils of Great Britain and Scotland, both of which were increased in 1979, from the Linbury Trust and from the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers, which has offered the society £1,000 a year for three years to buy pictures by young and promising representational artists. We welcome particularly this support from a city livery company which is closely linked to the visual arts, but we are, of course, extremely grateful for all these special grants.

We have equal cause, however, to be grateful to our members, the individuals, business firms, art dealers and public galleries, whose subscriptions and donations both covered our running expenses and provided half our purchase funds in 1979 — and left us with an unprecedentedly large surplus at the end of the year as well. I am glad to report that there were rises in receipts from all four categories for the year. The most substantial rises, however, were in corporate subscriptions and in special donations received in connection with advice given to such subscribers. Twenty-seven firms joined in this way in 1979 and the number continues to go up.

Under this corporate scheme, inaugurated in 1978, a minimum subscription of £250 a year entitles a company not only to membership in the society for its staff but also to the advice of the society’s experts should it wish to purchase works by living artists. As is known to those members who attended our annual general meeting last year at the Mall Galleries, where they were entertained by De Beers Consolidated Mines, this corporate subscriber has been using our advice, especially that of the society’s Director, to build up an outstanding collection of contemporary art which is now hung in its new offices in Charterhouse Street. Everyone in the building seems to welcome the pictures and those art critics who have seen them have been most complimentary. There is space for many more works, even though some 300 are there already, and De Beers is continuing to earmark an annual sum for the purchase of art. Such continued interest is most encouraging.

Two other corporate members have also been buying pictures and prints with the help of the society — The Economist Newspaper and BP Chemicals, which moved into a new building in Victoria in 1979. To purchase works by living artists, either for offices or to give to museums or other public institutions, is the most constructive way, at least where the visual arts are concerned, in which a business firm can co-operate with the cultural policy of the present government. This emphasises the need for private patronage to supplement the public subsidies which are not to be increased at present. To purchase such works with the advice of the Contemporary Art Society means not only that the firm is assured that pictures and sculptures will be chosen purely for their high quality without commercial bias but also that the society will have more money to spend on its charitable purpose of encouraging today’s artists by giving their works to museums. Thus the government’s policy is doubly furthered.

Moreover, the Contemporary Art Society has been doing what the government now endorses, providing private patronage for the arts, for 70 years, long before public subsidies were available. In its two budgets the Conservative Government has also tried to encourage increased giving by individuals, by changes in tax rates and in covenant arrangements (see the Hon. Treasurer’s note). I hope that this will make it easier for people to join the society and to subscribe more than the minimum £6 a year, as many do already. Our individual membership, now about 1400, grows but only slowly. Our greatest need is more young members. The committee is considering various schemes for inducing more people to join and would welcome suggestions. Quite apart from the knowledge that they are helping the society to build up the country’s heritage for the future, members are offered exceptionally interesting and enjoyable opportunities to participate in visits, foreign trips and other activities organised by the society. A list of where we went in 1979 will be found later in this report.

The main purpose of these events is to put members in touch with current developments in the visual arts both at home and abroad. So charges are kept as low as is consistent with contributing to the incidental overhead expenses of the society’s office and, when an event is well attended, to the funds available for our main purpose — the purchase of works of art. Paradoxically, however, the most popular of our foreign trips in 1979 were those to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which had to be duplicated, although in these countries there is little or no contemporary art to be seen, at least by tourists. Our other foreign trips usually include visits to private as well as official collections and to artists’ studios and our warmest thanks go to the society’s friends in Oslo, Lisbon and Paris who entertained our groups in this way. Our warmest thanks go also to Mrs. Rosmarie Slagle who, with the help of the Director and our events sub-committee, organises these foreign tours so efficiently.

Space does not allow me to thank individually all those who so kindly and generously made our very full programme possible but a few events deserve special mention: the dinner for David Hockney, before which he discussed his latest work with members; the exceptionally distinguished private collections which we were privileged to see in October; the unusual supper party at Mme. Tussauds, which included a special performance at the Laserium; and the lecture on “The Patronage of Modern Art” by Professor Alan Bowness, a member of our committee who is now Director of the Tate Gallery, arranged by Christie’s Fine Art Course for the benefit of the society.

This last event brought a handsome contribution to our funds. We are also benefiting from our co-operation with Crown Wallcoverings in a touring exhibition, “Tapestries of Today”, which has taken wall-hangings by prizewinning students and established textile artists to 10 galleries in various parts of Britain. Attendances have been high and the publicity plentiful; the interest aroused is evidence of the great popularity of the craftsman’s art today, especially among young people. This was also noticeable when the society arranged a public discussion on “The Fine Art of Crafts” in January 1979. When the tour finishes Crown will present five of the most desirable wall-hangings to the society.

We ourselves also made a special gift this year, a painting by John Bellany to the Tate Gallery in celebration of the opening, at long last, of its new exhibition space and in gratitude for the hospitality and help which the Tate and its staff have extended to us for so many years in the past — and, we hope, in the future as well. We were also able in 1979 to give solid expression of our gratitude to our Director, Pauline Vogelpoel, and our Organising Secretary, Petronilla Spencer-Silver, by increasing their salaries to a figure somewhat nearer to going commercial rates than had been possible previously, although they are still not paid as much as they are worth to us — and hardly could be. Since October, 1979, they have been assisted, voluntarily, from time to time, by Loula Goulandris, an ex-student of Christie’s Fine Art Course. Voluntary help is always thankfully received, especially from someone who can come regularly, and is often badly needed.

Unfortunately the committee is losing by retirement this year our Vice Chairman, Alistair McAlpine, who finds himself fully occupied at the Conservative Central Office. We thank him for the advice and support which we have had from him during his years on our committee and which we hope that we shall continue to have from behind the scenes. The other committee member whom we are forced to lose this year under our retirement rules is Edward Lucie-Smith; with his enthusiasm for our work and his steady flow of innovative ideas he has been of great value to us during this period of expansion and we shall miss him very much. To replace him it is proposed that Marina Vaizey should return to the committee. The name of the new Vice Chairman will be announced at the annual general meeting.

To close, as last year, on a sad note: Raymond Mortimer, the critic and writer, who died recently, was not only a collector of contemporary paintings and a patron of young artists, but also for many years an active member of the committee of the Contemporary Art Society, and its chairman from 1951 to 1956.


Honorary Treasurer’s Report
Financially 1979 was an encouraging year. There was a surplus on operations of £29,893 which, added to £63 (being the profit on the sale of an investment) and to the balance of the accumulated fund on January 1, 1979 (£15,408), brought that fund up to the record figure of £45,364.

Quoted investments at cost stand at £12,063 as against £4,000 for 1978. Subscriptions and donations from members rose from £15,972 to £22,612 and within this figure there was a significant increase in subscriptions from companies, from £2,250 in 1978 to £7,850 in 1979; income tax recoverable on covenants also went up slightly. Bequests and donations showed a spectacular rise from £4,492 in 1978 to £34,054; the explanation for this is that art dealers, who had benefited from purchases made by our corporate members (one in particular) with the society’s advice, gave voluntary and generous donations to the society as a token of their appreciation. These donations, for which we are most grateful, came to over £30,000. The net income from events, however, declined from £2,699 in 1978 to £2,282. For a more detailed breakdown of the income and expenditure account see the notes to the accounts on page 20.

It is satisfactory that administrative expenses increased less steeply than in 1978, the figures being £15,219 in 1979 as against £13,432 in 1978 and £10,827 in 1977; this reflects great credit on our staff. The largest increase under this heading was for salaries, pension scheme and national insurance contributions, up from £7,425 in 1978 to £9,063 in 1979.

Outlays on pictures and sculptures to be presented to public galleries came to the record figure of £35,253 as against £22,363 for 1978. This rise was partly the result of an increase in purchase grants, from both private and public sources, from £11,625 in 1978 to £18,090 in 1979; but half of the rise, and of the total, came from ordinary income. These figures show real progress along the road which the society was created to follow.


The society would like to draw attention to the following proposals made in the 1980 Budget:
1. The minimum period for a charitable covenant recognised for tax purposes is to be reduced from “over six years” to “over three years” as from April 5, 1980.
2. Income tax relief is to be allowed on covenanted payments to charities, up to a ceiling of £3,000 a year, for individuals who are taxed at more than the basic rate, beginning in 1981.
3. The upper limit on exemption from capital transfer tax on gifts to charities on death or within a year of death is to be raised from £100,000 to £200,000 as from March 26,1980.

Purchases for the year 1979
Buyer: Lord Croft
Robert Adams, Link, 1973 (Bronze cast 3/6)
Jules De Goede, Upwards (Mixed media on canvas)
Derrick Greaves, The Artist’s Mother, 1978 (Collage drawing)
Richard Hamilton, Soft Blue Landscape, 1979 (Screenprint and collotype)
William Henderson, Gjalla, second version, 1979 (Acrylic on cotton duck)
Guy Hetherington, The Solar Chariot, May 1975 (Oil and smoke on glass)
John Hoyland, Untitled, 1978 (Acrylic on paper)
John Hubbard, Stone Landscape, 1977, (Charcoal on paper)
Trevor Jones, Untitled No 22, 1978, (Gouache)
Richard Kidd, In Indigo, 1978, (Acrylic and graphite on cotton duck)
Kim Lim, Spin, 1974, (Woodcut)
Larry Rivers, Diane Raised IV (Polish Vocabulary), 1970-74, (original lithograph)
Jack Smith, Various Activities, central and out, 1965, (Oil on canvas)
Frank Stella, Furg, 1975, (original lithograph/screenprint)
Antonio Tapies, Samaretta, 1973, (original etching)
Joe Tilson, Ziggurat, 1963, (Wooden construction original version)
Julian Trevelyan, Valentine, 1972, (original etching)
John Walker, Seaside, 1972, (original etching)
John Walker, Study 111 f r o m – Drawings relating to a series of paintings entitled “Numinous”, 1977-78, (Acrylic, charcoal and chalk on paper)
John Wragg, Untitled, c. 1966, (Sculpture)

Buyer: Anthony Diamond
David Evans, Quiet Clean Rooms, 1978-79, (Oil on canvas)
lan Hamilton Finlay, Set of Conning Tower, 1973, (Marble and slate)
William Johnstone, Plaster Bas-Relief, 1972
Eduardo Paolozzi, Naked Head, 1979, (Bronze ed. of 3)

Buyer: Gabrielle Keiller
Ivor Abrahams, Maquette, 1977, (Patinated bronze 2/6)
Roger Ackling, Five Sunsets in One Hour, June 1978, (Sunlight on card)
Gillian Ayres, Coelus, 1977-78, (Oil on canvas)
John Bellany, John and Juliet after Rembrandt and Saskia, 1979, (Oil on hardboard)
Robert Brook, Conduit, 1978, (Photograph)
Patrick Caulfield, Fruit and Bowl, 1979, (Original screenprint)
Simon Cutts, Homage to Seurat, 1972, (Mixed media)
Simon Cutts, Poinsettia, 1972, (Mixed media)
Kenneth Dingwall, Small Corner, 1979, (Acrylic on canvas)
Stephen Duncalf, The Staircase, April 1979, (Enamel on board)
Jennifer Durrant, Rope Painting and Silver, November 1978, (Acrylic on cotton duck)
Stephen Farthing, Fish Dish, 1978, (Acrylic on canvas)
Terry Frost, Mustard and Orange, 1975, (Acrylic collage)
Siebe Hansma, Balance T 1979 O.2., (Drawing)
Siebe Hansma, Balance T 1979 1.2., (Drawing)
Bryan Ingham, Summer Morning 1978, (Etching on zinc)
Brysn Ingham, Summer Noon 1978, (Etching on zinc)
Kim Lim, Day, 1966, (Steel sculpture)
Bruce McClean, Untitled Drawing, 1979, (Acrylic on paper)
Leonard McComb, Tulips 2,1979, (Watercolour and pencil on paper)
David Willetts, Trees and Sun, 1976, (Oil on board)

For the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers
Brian Collier, Glass Landscape, 1979, (Watercolour)
Timothy Dickinson, Stadium-Night, 1979, (Oil on canvas)
Philip Hicks, Mirror on the Balcony overlooking the Bay, 1978, (Acrylic on canvas)
For the Linbury Trust
Arthur Boyd Narcissus with Cave and Rock Orchids, 1976, (Oil on canvas)
Gary Wragg, Hetty’s Painting, 1978, (Mixed media on cotton duck)
Special in honour of The Tate Gallery’s new extension
John Bellany Star of Bethlehem, 1978, (Oil on board)

Gifts to the Society

Oswell Blakeston, Two untitled drawings, 1978, (Felt pen), from the artist
John Hubbard, Rock Face: Haytor, 1978-79, (Oil on canvas) from an anonymous donor
Eduardo Paolozzi, Head, 1979, (Dry point etching), from the artist

Loans made by the Society during 1979
Ivor Abrahams, Maquette, 1977, to Ivor Abrahams Exhibition at Stoke, Portsmouth, Hull, Middlesbrough
and Glasgow
Harold Cohen, Project, 1962, to the Open University
Jennifer Durrant, Rope painting and silver, 1978, to the Hayward Annual
Norman Garstin, Five paintings to exhibition “Early Newlyn Schobl” at Newlyn, Bristol and Plymouth
Norman Garstin, Group of paintings to “Norman and Alethea Garstin Exhibiton” at St. Ives, Bristol, Dublin and Fine Art Society, London
Ben Johnson, Lock, 1977, to “Paintings and Prints” at Riverside Studios
Kenneth Martin, Metamorphoses, June 1977, to Kenneth Martin Exhibition at Yale Centre for British Art
Eduardo Paolozzi, Naked Head, 1979, to Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne
Group of thirty-eight recent acquisitions to Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury
Group of 107 recent acquisitions to “Art for Today” at Portsmouth Art Gallery

To corporate subscribers
Four paintings to J. Sainsbury Ltd
Four paintings to The Institute of Directors

Works presented to Public Art Galleries in 1979
To download Contemporary Art Society Report 1979 (pdf) click here


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