Art Exhibit: 100 Years of Gifts

Christopher Wood, The Harbour, 1926, Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council

Christopher Wood, The Harbour, 1926, Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council


100 Years of Gifts will be on display at York Art Gallery from 6th February 2010- 3rd May 2010

Rating: ***

100 Years of Gifts is a fascinating exploration of British art throughout the last century. It features a diverse range of paintings, sculpture and photography from pioneers of British modernism, such as Henry Moore and David Bomberg, right through to the explosive art of the YBAs, including Sarah Lucas and Tactica Dean.

The exhibition is part of a celebration of the achievements of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) across the last century. All the works on display have been donated by the CAS to galleries in Yorkshire. Laura Turner said that “for the last 100 years the Contemporary Art Society has played a vital role in shaping public collections through their support of contemporary artists. In total they have given 8,000 works to UK galleries since they began.” The exhibition aims to bring together “a wide variety of works which they have given to galleries all over Yorkshire for people to enjoy. It offers the visitor is a unique chance to see some of their finest donations to the county in one place.”

Sivan Lewin, Portrait, 1993, The Ferens Art Gallery, Hull Museums and Art Gallery C Sivan Lewin.jpg Sivan Lewin, Portrait, 1993, The Ferens Art Gallery, Hull Museums and Art Gallery C Sivan Lewin

The sheer variety of work on display means that there will be something for everyone. The exhibition aims to show the wide range of styles and techniques that artists have employed over the last 100 years. Whilst putting together the exhibition, Laura Turner, curator of art at York Art Gallery, decided to emphasise this progression by deliberately juxtaposing works which share subject matter in contrasting styles. For example Jacques Emile-Blanche’s painting of Sloane Street, London from 1903 is displayed next to photographs of figures taken against a backdrop of shops in the city, by artist Seamus Nicholson in 2000. The show highlights the variety in British art across the last century, by creating these sharp visual contrasts.

However the scope of the exhibition cannot match other projects that will be taking place in the course of the year to mark the CAS centenary, such as Perfect Courses and Shimmering Objects to be held at Tate Britain. The limitation both on the choice of work and also on the space available to display the work is apparent. But, 100 Years of Gifts should be appreciated for what it can and does achieve. It is the end result of a collaborative project between art galleries from across Yorkshire, celebrating the vital and generous role the CAS has had and continues to have in supporting contemporary art. If at a loose end in town or if you feel the need to take a break from everyday life, 100 Years of Gifts is more than worth a visit; if nothing else, the exhibition will certainly continue to fuel debate as to what actually constitutes art.

Ivon Hitchens, Tangled Pool No 1, 1949, Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council C Jonathan Clark Fine Art, Estate of the Artist

100 Years of Gifts is part of a Centenary Programme of fellowships, events, exhibitions and publications that are taking place throughout the year to celebrate the work of the CAS.

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