Government funding struck Tricycle Theatre
has found a new saviour in the form of art collector and philanthropist Al Weil. Weil is giving around 35 paintings by the renowned Victorian watercolourist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon to the theatre, to exhibit and auction, using the proceeds to support its activities.
The Tricycle was a victim of the latest round of government cuts, losing £350,000 funding per year. As a direct result, Tricycles Nicolas Kent, one of the UK's longest serving and most respected artistic directors, announced that he would be standing down from the theatre he has run for 27 years.
Ideally, I want Kent to stay on, but the main thing is to keep the theatre alive and kicking as vigorously as it ever has, says Weil, now 89 years old and a keen supporter of the Tricycle.
Weil was introduced to Kent and the theatres challenging political programme by his wife Joan Brown, the well-known casting director. He has been collecting Brabazon paintings since the 1960s and now has a core group of 35 watercolours, that will be exhibited in the Tricycles exhibition space 14 December 2011 7 January 2012 and then at the Pyms Gallery on Mount Street, London W1, 11 January 8 February 2012.
A culture enthusiast since frequenting New Yorks jazz clubs in the 60s, Weils interest in the visual arts began during his career in the labour unions: he represented the employers of New Yorks cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and botanic gardens. His interest in Brabazon was kick-started by discovering the work when browsing the antiques stalls at Portobello Market shortly after he arrived in London. He bought two Brabazon paintings for £10 each on his first visit to the market and then began actively looking out for them, researching the life and work of this artist who the critic DS MacColl suggested rivalled Turner as a colourist and of whom Ruskin said Brabazon is the only person since Turner at whose feet I can sit and worship and learn about colour.
Weil began to immerse himself in the British art scene, joining the Turner Society in 1975 to campaign for a better home for the Turner bequest. As the Assistant General Secretary of Public Services International (part of International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) Weil was used to battling for rights and the Turner Society ultimately claimed victory with the allocation of the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain for the Turner collection in 1980. This same tenacious spirit has seen him collect and write on Brabazon for some forty years, and now his efforts will create two exhibitions of the artists work, as well as a generous gift to the Tricycle, one of Londons great arts institutions.
Al Weils catalogue to accompany the exhibitions will be available at both venues.