“Take on Me” blared its 1980’s vibrations in the video film pod downstairs as trustees, supporters, members of the public and the press rubbed shoulders to watch an intimate showing of 2012 Turner Prize winner Elizabeth Price’s “User Group Disco”. Thursday 17th January 2013 saw the Contemporary Art Society open its doors for the first time in its 100 year history. The Contemporary Art Society’s recent move to 59 Central Street in London (near Old Street tube) is a terrific one in terms of accessibility and space, and promises to be a must go to venue on the London art scene.
Elizabeth gave a fabulously lucid talk about her video work from concept to the actual layering process in Final Cut Pro. She stood shining silver like an enigmatic siren from a black and white sci-fi movie, her analysis really opened up a new dimension in the understanding of her work for me, and which I think will be one of the real drivers of footfall for public talks at the Contemporary Art Society. Being able to meet and talk with artists of such calibre, encourages dialogue and stimulates discussion on such a personal level and on such an inimitable intimate scale.
She explained how she combined textual narrative from many different sources and how it became a chorus, a collective, a voice of many. I could see parallels with Bach’s polyphonic Inventions, threads of voices and ideas, visuals, concepts from all different sources which in her video become filmic manifestations in her attempts to construct a space. The music is often percussive or melodic, often powerful and shocking as they flare noisily into a dark disconcerting silence, the images sometimes capricious mixed with archival materials. Her cerebral approach is refreshing, as is her ability to talk with interest and direction.
With the recent philistine cuts to the arts, such positive and creative approaches to generating public support and interest in contemporary art is imperative and should be supported and promoted where possible so future generations of artists and collectors can enjoy a rewarding career where self-expression and freedom of expression is an asset not a liability.
Mark Stephens CBE, chair of the Trustees gave an inspiring opening speech about the long term achievements of the Contemporary Art Society and also highlighting the terrifying proposal of the current government to remove art subjects from the curriculum. In fact he laid down the gauntlet to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, to come and debate this publically at Contemporary Art Society… I wonder if he would have the guts! If any of my MP friends who read this who might know Michael, why not ask him? If he thinks cutting awareness of the arts and history of art is going to drive more dumbed down uneducated consumer monkeys he’d be right, if he thinks it’s going to make more money for the country he’d be wrong, the art world generates billions of pounds of revenue. Has he never heard of bread and circuses? Oh no, maybe not, because they got rid of Classics in the currciulum too (and those of you who don’t get the allusion, I rest my case, very few through no fault of our own are unaware of even basic references anymore). Dumbing down of education is like cyanide in the coffee cup of culture.
The premises are easy and open, and their programme outlined for the rest of the year will seal this on art goers’ calendars which will include talks by Phyllida Barlow and Louisa Fairclough. The main plus for the Contemporary Art Society is their passion and trusted ability to champion contemporary art, supporting artists and emerging movements by purchasing and protecting important works through networks of patrons and private collectors. In fact since 1910 they have donated over 8000 works to museums and public galleries, from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore. What sets the Contemporary Art Society apart is that they also are a consultancy, one of the leading contemporary advisory bodies of management and collection of contemporary art which in turns acts as a pro-active campaigner for new talent, supporting curators and stimulates philanthropy and new collectors for the arts.
For more details about the NEW PUBLIC events at 59 Central Street, London EC1V 3AF see http://www.contemporaryartsociety.org
Elizabeth Price 9 Jan – 8 Feb 2013 (User Group Disco screening)
Stephen Nelson 11 Jan – 28 Mar (sculpture)
Louisa Fairclough 13 Feb -1 Mar (in conversation 21 February)
ANNUAL FUNDRAISER 6 Mar – 11 Mar AUCTION at Old Vic Tunnels 13 March
Phyllida Barlow 20 Mar -16 Apr (talk by Deborah Dean of Castle Museum and art Gallery on 26 March at 59 Cental St)
Ivan Seal 23 Apr – 24 May (in conversation 19 April)