LONDON.- Londons New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s
by Lisa Tickner is published by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (distributed by Yale University Press), 9 June 2020, £35.00 hardback.
This is a new and richly detailed study of the London art world in the 1960s. It is not a survey, but a sequence of chapters devoted to particular institutions and events in a transformational period for British art. There is still little in the published literature concerned with art patronage, art education, influential galleries and the market, significant exhibitions, increases in public funding and corporate sponsorship, or the new prominence of art and artists in the media. These were essential nodes in the warp and weft of art as a social activity which, with the rise of jet air travel, the emergence of the colour supplements and the projection of creative Britain as part of the export drive, brought international recognition to Londons new scene.
Between a prologue (London on the cusp of change at the end of the fifties) and an epilogue (the shift away from painting and sculpture in a wave of political unrest at the end of the sixties), each chapter from 1962, through to 1968 takes a particular topic as its focus. These include Ken Russells film Pop Goes the Easel (1962), the opening of the Kasmin Gallery (1963), the first of the New Generation exhibitions and Painting and Sculpture of a Decade: 54-64 at the Whitechapel and Tate Galleries (1964), Lord Snowdons photographs of artists in Private View (1965), Antonionis London film Blow-Up (1966), the promotion of British art and design abroad at trade fairs and at Expo 67 in Montreal (1967), and the student occupation at Hornsey College of Art (1968). The book treats a film, a gallery, an exhibition, a book, a protest, as itself a work: as a creative project in its own right, built from the resources to hand, subject to the pressures of the moment, comparable in its own way to the art it draws on or frames.
Londons New Scene is full of unfamiliar material and original ideas, drawing on oral history and finegrained archival research. The 195 illustrations include art works by David Hockney, Peter Blake, Derek Boshier, Pauline Boty, Bridget Riley, John Latham and Barry Flanagan, photographs by David Bailey, Ida Kar, Jorge Lewinski and Lord Snowdon, and a wide range of film stills, gallery installation shots, advertisements and press photography. The text, packed with information and reflection, will prove invaluable to students and scholars but is written with a lightness of touch that will also appeal to the general reader.
Lisa Tickner is an honorary professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art, professor emerita in art history at Middlesex University, and a fellow of the British Academy.