Press Release: Contemporary Art Society announces new public-facing role from January 2013

9 January 2013 By
Photo: Joe Plommer, 2012

9 January 2013

The Contemporary Art Society is proud to announce a new public space and programme of displays, talks and events, beginning in January with displays of work by Stephen Nelson and 2012 Turner Prize winner Elizabeth Price. Elizabeth Price will give the inaugural artist talk in the Contemporary Art Society’s new home at 59 Central Street in London on 17 January, when she will discuss her work, including the Contemporary Art Society’s recent acquisition of her important piece USER GROUP DISCO (2009) for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

This is the first time in the charity’s 100 year history that it has opened its doors to the public; monthly displays are open to the public Tuesday – Friday (11am – 5pm) and the eagerly-anticipated artists’ talks series is open and free to all.  Although still offering a fuller programme for paid members and relying on members’ support to fulfil its charitable mission, the Contemporary Art Society’s move to become more public-facing is set against a backdrop of recent cuts to arts funding in the UK and intends to provide greater advocacy and support for the visual arts nationally, especially at a regional level.

Paul Hobson, Director, said: `The current reduction in public funding for the arts, combined with alarming proposals to remove art subjects from the curriculum in England and the unaffordability of higher education for those who would have wished to pursue a career in the Arts, will have a devastating effect on our creative economy and visual culture in Britain a decade from now.  During the past century, the Contemporary Art Society has championed artists and brought their work to national audiences for generations, donating their works to museums and public galleries and acting as a vital conduit for London-based philanthropy to support the regions.  Our new home will enable us to generate more support at an especially challenging time for the Arts and artists in the UK.’

On 17 January at 5.30pm, the Contemporary Art Society will hold a launch and press briefing in its new home at 59 Central Street to explain the purpose of the new space and its public programme in the context of funding cuts to the Arts.  Trustees of the Contemporary Art Society, including Mark Stephens, Sarah Elson and Zach Leonard, will be joined by artists who have benefited from the charity’s support earlier in their careers, such as Jeremy DellerBob and Roberta Smith and 2012 Turner Prize winner, Elizabeth PriceDrinks will be served from 5.30pm with the briefing starting at 6pm, and the briefing will finish with the talk by Elizabeth Price.
To RSVP to the press briefing, please contact Jenny Prytherch, Communications Manager, on or +44 (0)20 7017 8412.



(January — May 2013)


Elizabeth Price 9 JAN — 8 FEB
USER GROUP DISCO (2009) by acclaimed British artist Elizabeth Price was recently donated by the Contemporary Art Society to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. This important work by the recent Turner Prize winner is the second piece in a trilogy forming part of an on-going series that navigates the notional architecture and collection of a fictional museum, with this work being the ‘Hall of Sculptures’. Elizabeth Price will give a talk at the Contemporary Art Society on 17 January following the press briefing.

Stephen Nelson 11 JAN – 28 MAR
The Contemporary Art Society is delighted to present a playful intervention by one of our Artist Members, Stephen Nelson, as the inaugural PROJECTS display at our new home. Nelson makes strange and highly personable objects and constructions, using a wide variety of salvaged materials selected for their colour, texture and character.  Working with anything from sea worn plastic toys, clay pipes, wire, painted drift wood to cloth, carpet and leather, Nelson’s sculptures have an improvised and makeshift attitude, forming part of a curious world of ‘possible objects’ which defy critical context by reaching out through their physicality.

Louisa Fairclough 13 FEB — 1 MAR
The Contemporary Art Society recently purchased a moving image work, Bore Song (2011) by British artist Louisa Fairclough for Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. The piece relates to a spectacular Gloucestershire phenomenon — the Severn Bore, a large tidal wave that surges up the River Severn — and will be shown with a companion work at Camden Arts Centre during February, with related drawings on display at the Contemporary Art Society. Louisa Fairclough will be in conversation with Cherry Smyth at the Contemporary Art Society on 21 February.

Annual Fundraiser 6 MAR — 11 MAR
Each year, the Contemporary Art Society organises a themed fundraising gala and auction to raise funds for its mission to purchase contemporary works for museums and public galleries and their audiences across the UK. For one week, we will be displaying a selection of the artworks that have been specially commissioned for inclusion in this year’s auction (WANDERLUST), giving our members and the public an opportunity to preview the works and leave absentee bids before the event.The gala, which is chaired by Contemporary Art Society Trustee Antje Geczy and sponsored by Boucheron, will take place at the Old Vic Tunnels in Waterloo on 13 March and the auction will be conducted by Sotheby’s.

Phyllida Barlow 20 MAR — 16 APR
Phyllida Barlow is a central figure in the development of contemporary British sculpture. Her deliberately playful and non-monumental works Untitled: Basel Structure (2010), Untitled: Crushed Shape (2011) and Untitled: Disaster III (2010), were recently gifted by the Contemporary Art Society to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery. These works will be on display at the Contemporary Art Society, along with selected work from the museum’s collection. Deborah Dean of Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery will be giving a talk at the Contemporary Art Society on 26 March.

Ivan Seal TUE 23 APR — FRI 24 MAY
Ivan Seal’s painting plemploted fowidead (2011) and its accompanying drawing ors devurth at seven(swingerbuffetbit) (2011) were gifted by the Contemporary Art Society to Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in 2012. These works will be on display at the Contemporary Art Society with works from Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery’s collection selected by the artist. Ivan Seal will be in conversation with Harriet Loffler of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery at the Contemporary Art Society on 19 April.

Displays to follow will feature works by John StezakerCaroline Achaintre and a selection of important modern and contemporary works donated to the Contemporary Art Society byphilanthropists Eric and Jean Cass, which form part of a recent donation of over 300 works to the Contemporary Art Society by the couple totalling over £4 million.

For further information on the Contemporary Art Society’s new space and public programme, or to RSVP to the launch and press briefing on 17 January, contact:

Jenny Prytherch, Communications Manager
T. +44 (0)20 7017 8412


Encouraging an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art by a wide audience and donating works by important and new artists to museums and public galleries across the UK.

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 UK.

In October 2012, the Contemporary Art Society relocated to offices designed by award-winning architects Carmody Groarke. Based in Clerkenwell, London, the newly designed premises not only accommodates the Society’s offices but also provides the first publicly accessible platform in London for the Contemporary Art Society in its one hundred year history.  This marks a significant new development for the charity, which marked its centenary in 2010, providing a social and working environment for the organisation’s diverse networks and stakeholders, and a platform for greater visibility and engagement in the organisation’s mission to develop public collections of contemporary art in the UK. The new building will include spaces for hosting public events, seminars and displays of the works currently being gifted by the charity to museums across the UK, as well as an archive of the thousands of works donated by the organisation over the past 100 years, along with a study centre and research facility focused on collection development for curators, academics and arts professionals.

The Contemporary Art Society’s Consultancy team offers independent and expert advice on public art commissioning and cultural strategy and develop outstanding contemporary art collections for companies and private individuals.  With over 30 years of experience in commissioning, curating and project management, our skill is in understanding each client’s needs and creating visionary linkages to the best in contemporary art.  We advise on corporate and private collections internationally and our recent public art projects include major commissions for the Olympic Park, public art strategies for Camden Town, the University of Cambridge & the Waterways Trust.

Philanthropists Eric and Jean Cass have dedicated over 35 years of their lives to supporting artists. During this time they built up a one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary sculptures, ceramics, drawings, prints and paintings in modern times, with work by Karel Appel, Lynn Chadwick, Michael Craig-Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Allen Jones, Henry Moore, John Piper, Joan Miro and many others. The entire collection was housed in the interiors and gardens of ‘Bleep’, Eric and Jean Cass’s spectacular modernist home in Surrey named after the high pitched bleeping sound emitted from pocket paging receivers, a product that formed part of Eric business, Cass Electronics. Each piece in their collection was purchased because it gave the owners immense enjoyment as a standalone work of art.
Eric and Jean Cass made the decision to gift over 300 important modern and contemporary artworks (totalling over £4 million) from their personal collection to the Contemporary Art Society for allocation to public institutions and to support contemporary art in the UK. In 2012, the Contemporary Art Society invited seven UK-based museums to research Eric and Jean Cass’s donation and to pitch to receive clusters of works that would complement or enliven their current collections. The museums proposed works by artists including Karel Appel, Michael Craig-Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Victor Pasmore, Pablo Picasso and Niki de Saint-Phalle. The successful museums are Gallery of Modern Art (Glasgow), Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Art Gallery, National Museum of Wales (Cardiff), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh), The Royal Pavilion and Museums (Brighton) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.