Press Release: Pop works from £4 million Eric & Jean Cass Gift to go on display at Contemporary Art Society (16 October – 22 November 2013)

27 September 2013 By
Image: Julio Le Parc's Longue March (1976) installed at 'Bleep'. Photo: Doug Atfield

Collectors Eric and Jean Cass recently donated over 300 important modern and contemporary artworks to the Contemporary Art Society for gifting to museums, including works by Karel Appel, Michael Craig-Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Victor Pasmore, Pablo Picasso and Niki de Saint-Phalle. The gift is one of the most important donations to the Contemporary Art Society in our 103 year history and totals over £4 million.

Developed over 40 years, Eric and Jean’s collection was one of the most unique and significant collections of modern and contemporary art in the UK and was previously housed in the interiors and gardens of ‘Bleep’, their spectacular modernist home in Surrey named after the pager system that Eric Cass’ company invented. Wanting their collection to benefit the widest possible audience, the philanthropists approached the Contemporary Art Society to disseminate works from their collection to museums across the whole country.

From 16 October 2013, a selection of Pop works donated to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, West Midlands, from The Eric & Jean Cass Gift will be on display at the Contemporary Art Society. This is the first time the Contemporary Art Society has exhibited any of the works from the gift and it will be the first of several displays showcasing selected works from Eric and Jean Cass’ collection.

The gift has allowed Wolverhampton Art Gallery to develop its collection of Pop Art by introducing works by Victor Vasarely, Julio Le Parc and Karel Appel and a new focus on the impact of European artists on the UK Pop movement. Major works on display include the first Karel Appel work purchased by Eric Cass, Compelviction (1967); Victor Vasarely’s AXO-99 (1988); and Longue March (1976) by Julio Le Parc, an impromptu purchase by Eric and Jean during a visit to Paris. Other works from Wolverhampton’s collection will also be on display to contextualise the impact of the gift, including those by Eduardo Paolozzi and Bridget Riley.

Eric and Jean Cass said: “When the time came for us to leave Bleep and our 365-strong collection of modern and contemporary art, we had to find a home that would love the pieces as much as we did. The Contemporary Art Society provided the answer. It has been a big job, carried out with the same spirit that involved us in collecting in the first place.”

Sophia Bardsley, Deputy Director at Contemporary Art Society, said: “We are thrilled to be able to show a selection of works from The Eric & Jean Cass Gift in our space from October. Eric and Jean’s collection is one of the most eclectic we have worked with and combines major modernist works with others collected during their many travels – all highlighting their passion for collecting works of art that they enjoyed and identified with. Their collection is hugely personal. Eric and Jean’s decision to gift over 300 works from their collection to the Contemporary Art Society for gifting to UK museums shows their engagement with the arts and their commitment to philanthropy on a national scale. Their donation will make a long-term difference to regional museum collections across the whole of the UK – and it is this development of regional collections, alongside inspiring an appreciation of contemporary art with regional audiences, that is at the heart of the Contemporary Art Society’s mission.”

Pop Works from the Eric & Jean Cass Gift runs 16 October – 22 November. There is a discussion of The Eric & Jean Cass Gift by curator and writer Ann Elliott and Marguerite Nugent, curator and programme development manager at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, on 19 October at 15.00 at the Contemporary Art Society.

For all press enquiries, interview requests and press tickets to the talk on 19 October, contact:
Jenny Prytherch, Communications Manager
T. +44 (0)20 7017 8412




1. About Contemporary Art Society

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.

The Contemporary Art Society has recently appointed a new Director, Caroline Douglas, who will join the organisation from October 2013. For interview enquiries, contact

Forthcoming displays at Contemporary Art Society:

*John Stezaker (4 Sept – 4 Oct), Artist Talk 12 Sept

*The Eric & Jean Cass Gift (16 Oct – 22 Nov)

*Laure Prouvost (4 Dec – 17 Jan), Artist Talk 12 Dec

*Simon Fujiwara (29 Jan – 28 Feb)

*PRESS BRIEFING (29 Jan, 9am – 10am)
An exclusive press preview of our Simon Fujiwara display and an opportunity to find out about our displays and initiatives from February 2014. We will be joined by Simon Fujiwara as well as new Contemporary Art Society Director Caroline Douglas.

Key facts about Contemporary Art Society acquisitions:

The Contemporary Art Society is the leading organisation for identifying emerging talent in the UK and has donated many ‘firsts’ to museums across the country throughout its illustrious history, including the first works by Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon and, more recently, the first works by Damien Hirst, Elizabeth Price and 2013 Turner Prize nominee Laure Prouvost.

  • 1910 Contemporary Art Society makes its first purchase, Augustus John’s Smiling Woman, which was later presented to Tate in 1917
  • 1917 Contemporary Art Society gifts Paul Gauguin’s Tahitians to Tate
  • 1933 Contemporary Art Society gifts Pablo Picasso’s Flowers to Tate – the first Picasso ever to be acquired by Tate
  • 1946 The first work by Francis Bacon is purchased, Figure Study II
  • 1967 Henry Moore’s Knife Edge – Two Piece presented to the City of Westminster and permanently sited in Abingdon Street Gardens, London W1
  • 1988 Mark Wallinger’s Lost Horizon is gifted to The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent
  • 1992 Damien Hirst’s Forms Without Life is gifted to Tate – the first Hirst ever to be donated to Tate
  • This year (2013-4) the Contemporary Art Society expects to place art worth in excess of £4million into public collections across the UK with the support of our patrons and other stakeholders.

2. Museums to receive works from The Eric & Jean Cass Gift

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (GoMA) receives works by Niki de Saint Phalle, the largest donation of this significant French artist’s work to a UK collection. The donation also includes an archive of ephemera and correspondence between the artist and Eric and Jean Cass. Niki de Saint Phalle – the Eric and Jean Cass Gift will be on display at GoMA from 15 November 2012 – October 2013.

Hepworth Wakefield receives works by Hubert Dalwood, Barbara Hepworth, Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick, F. E. McWilliam, Bernard Meadows, Denis Mitchell, William Tillyer, William Turnbull and Eduardo Paolozzi.

Leeds Art Gallery receives works by Robert Adams, Alan Davie, Henry Moore, William Pye, Joe Tilson, William Turnbull and Alison Wilding.

National Museum of Wales receives works by Karel Appel, Patrick Caulfield, Hedegaard, John Hoyland, Joan Miro and Bjorn Wiinblad.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) receives works including sculptures by Reg Butler and Cesar Baldaccini and a room display of works from the 1980’s by Michael Craig-Martin. Michael Craig Martins from the gift will be on display at SNGMA from 5 October 2013 – 25 May 2014.

The Royal Pavilion and Museums (Brighton) receives works by Eileen Agar, Barbara Hepworth, Victor Pasmore, Pablo Picasso, Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok, Ettore Sottsass and Gillian Ayres.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery receives works by Karel Appel, Allen Jones, F.E. McWilliam, Julio Le Parc, Victor Vasarely, and Glynn Williams.

Other museums to receive works from the Eric and Jean Cass Gift since 2008 include: Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, York Art Gallery, Warwick University Collection, Victoria Gallery & Museum (University of Liverpool), Gallery Oldham.

For full information visit:

3. About the key artists on display at Contemporary Art Society

Karel Appel. Born in Amsterdam in 1921, Appel studied at the Rijksackademie, Amsterdam’s State Academy of Art (1940-43). A founding member, with fellow artists Corneille and Constant, of the radical avant-garde group COBRA, Appel relocated to Paris in 1950, where his career flourished. Appel received the Unesco Prize at the 1954 Venice Biennale and the Guggenheim International Award (1960).

Julio Le Parc. Born 1928 in Mendoza Argentina, Le Parc studied under Lucio Fontana at the Escuela Superior de Bella Artes, Buenos Aires (1942-54). After moving to Paris in 1958, Le Parc visited Victor Vasarely’s studios, which was to have a lasting influence on Le Parc’s practice, as was the founding of the radical artists’ collective, Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) in 1960. Le Parc was awarded the Grand Prix for painting at the Venice Biennale in 1966, more recently in 2013, the Palais de Tokyo staged a major retrospective of his work.

Eduardo Paolozzi. Born 1924 in Leith, Scotland, Paolozzi studied at St. Martins and Slade Schools of Art in London. Becoming a tutor at the Central School of Art and Design, Paolozzi collaborated in the highly influential Whitechapel exhibition This is Tomorrow, in 1956. Working in forms across the artistic spectrum, from bronze sculpture to collage and printmaking, Paolozzi’s works have permeated the cultural landscape of the UK with public works at Tottenham Court Road and the British Library as well as being one of the founding members of the ICA.

Bridget Riley. Born 1931 in London, Riley studied at Goldsmiths and the Royal College of Art. Like Vasarely, Riley exhibited in The Responsive Eye show at MoMA New York in 1965, with trademark monochrome optical works such as Blaze 2 (1963). Her approach to painting, often with the use of assistants, was to be a key component of the development of Op Art in the 1960s, with Riley at the forefront. Internationally renowned, Riley’s works are in prestigious collections across the world and she has been the recipient of many prizes, including the International painting Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1968.

Victor Vasarely. Born 1908 in Hungry, Vasarely studied at the Academy of Painting in Budapest before joining the Budapest branch of the Bauhaus in 1929. His international reputation was confirmed with the exhibition The Responsive Eye at MoMA New York in 1965. Vasarely’s work features in numerous large internationally renowned  collections, including the Guggenheim, Tate and MOMA. Museums devoted exclusively to his work include the Vasarely Foundation and the Vasarely Institute, both in France and the house in which he was born in Pécs, Hungry, which houses a permanent exhibition of Vasarely’s works.

4. About Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Funded and built by local contractor Philip Horsman from designs by Birmingham architect Julius Chatwin, Wolverhampton Art Gallery opened in May 1884. A Grade II* Listed building, the sculptural frieze on the outside features 16 characters each representing an element of arts and crafts, from painting and pottery to architecture and metalworking. Science is also represented. The School Of Art, built to the rear of the new building, was opened at the same time and has since been incorporated into the gallery.

From early donations of art by several leading local figures, including industrialist Sidney Cartwright and Horsman, whose contributions to Wolverhampton are marked by a fountain next to the gallery, in St Peter’s gardens, the collection quickly grew in size and reputation. A new extension in 2007 included a dedicated Pop Art gallery and additional space for special exhibitions, while the Victorian Gallery was refurbished in 2009.

Regularly changing exhibitions and displays reveal trends and themes, with contributions from major UK and international artists, both historic and contemporary. Work included ranges from painting, printing, drawing, photography and sculpture, to digital and installation art.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery
Lichfield St
West Midlands