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Philanthropists Eric and Jean Cass gift contemporary art work to National Museum Wales
Back sitting room at ‘Bleep’, Eric and Jean Cass’s spectacular modernist Surrey home, where the artworks were previously displayed. The photo shows a work by Dutch artist Karel Appel ‘The City’ which will now be on display at National Museum Cardiff. Photo: Douglas Atfield.

CARDIFF.- Twelve important modern works of art by internationally renowned artists have been gifted to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. The works, which were given by well-known art collectors Eric and Jean Cass through the Contemporary Art Society, include two lithographs by the famous Surrealist Joan Miró and a major work by Dutch artist Karel Appel and will be exhibited at National Museum Cardiff from 4 May until 21 July 2013.

Over the last 35 years, Eric and Jean Cass, who live in Surrey, established an outstanding and very personal collection of over 300 sculptures, ceramics, drawings, prints and paintings, which have been given to the Contemporary Art Society for allocation to public institutions and to support contemporary art in the UK. The gift totals over £4 million.

Amongst the Eric and Jean Cass gift to Amgueddfa Cymru are four lithographs by the Catalan artist Joan Miró. One of the lithographs is called Miró and was produced in the 1970s as a poster to advertise Miró’s original prints being available to purchase at Vision Nouvelle, Paris. The colourful design and abstract forms are typical of the work of Miró, who became famous for his part in the Surrealist group in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s.

Others include The City, 1982, an oil on canvas by Karel Appel, which shows a naked woman and a dog roaming through a desolate landscape of skyscrapers. It deals with the subject of city decay and poverty inspired by Karel Appel’s experience of the streets of New York in 1981. There is also a painting, Private Waltz,1989, acrylic on cotton duck, which is a large gestural abstract work by British artist John Hoyland.

In 1969, Eric Cass worked closely with architect Brian Sapseid to design a house called Bleep. The name Bleep is in recognition of Cass Electronics and the high-pitched sound emitted by paging receivers marketed by the company. The open plan, modern architecture of the house encouraged Eric to start purchasing modern and contemporary art to fill their home.

Both made an early decision to donate their collection to museums and galleries in the UK, so that audiences from around the country would be able enjoy the works. The Contemporary Art Society was appointed to manage the distribution of the Cass Gift, nominating seven institutions from its network of 65 member museums across the UK to receive works. The seven nominated museums were invited to pitch to receive works that would complement or enliven their current collections. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales was nominated as one of the beneficiaries alongsideGallery of Modern Art (Glasgow), Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Art Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh), The Royal Pavilion and Museums (Brighton) and Wolverhampton Art Galler.y

Melissa Munro, Derek Williams Curator, said, “We are extremely grateful to Eric and Jean Cass and the Contemporary Art Society for their generous gift which was part of their personal collection and which will greatly benefit the Amgueddfa Cymru collections. To have been selected for this gift demonstrates the regard in which the National Museum Wales collections are held and I hope visitors enjoy seeing the works of art on display at National Museum Cardiff from 4 May.”

Paul Hobson, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, said: “This tremendously generous gift from Eric and Jean Cass is of incalculable cultural and financial value to institutions and audiences across the UK and is an example of selfless philanthropy. Eric and Jean have built their collection with great passion, care and intelligence, always knowing that the works would in time enter public collections where the pleasure they have had privately would be shared with the widest audience nationally, now and in the future. It is typical of this enlightened couple that they would aspire to benefit audiences no matter where they live, recognising that artists and audiences seed their imaginations through experiencing these important local collections. We look forward to the opening of the display in Cardiff”

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.

For more information on the Eric and Jean Cass gift please visit:

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