ICA London Celebrates 70 Years Of Cutting Edge Excellence




The 70th Anniversary of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA London) is celebrated to the day today. Edouard Léon Théodore Mesens, Roland Penrose and Herbert Read called the first ever meeting of the ICA at 23 Brook Street on 30 January 1946. Those attending included key figures from the post-war British art world, including ICA patron Peter Watson, experimental film-maker Jacques Brunius, G.M. Hoellering, manager of The Academy Cinema in Oxford Street, and Peter Gregory, Lund Humphries chair and director of The Burlington Magazine.

The formative ICA passionately believed that London urgently needed a space for the promotion and discussion of the contemporary arts at an international level. The ICA would go on to become the birthplace of Pop Art, Op Art and Brutalist Architecture, as well as becoming home to the Independent Group. Francis Bacon, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince all presented their first institutional solo shows at the ICA. The American abstract expressionists exhibited there, Picasso loved it and Marcel Duchamp was a regular visitor.

In the 60s, the ICA became a centre for London’s counterculture, startling audiences with screenings of Yoko Ono’s film ‘Bottoms’. In the 70s, the Institute developed close links with Punk, headlining bands like The Clash for the first time while courting controversy with Cosey Fanni Tutti and the exhibition ‘Prostitution’. During the 80s, it presented sensational works by the likes of Laurie Anderson, Robert Mapplethorpe and Gerhard Richter. John Currin, Marlene Dumas and Steve McQueen, as well as leading YBAs, staged their earliest shows at the ICA, while Cerith Wyn Evans tore the gallery walls down and Tino Sehgal staged three solo-exhibitions over as many years. The ICA talks programme continues to provoke, while the ICA Cinemas remains committed to supporting international film festivals, as well as independent cinema and artists’ film.

Each of the figures pictured in this commemorative photograph has made a critical contribution to the ICA’s extraordinary legacy along the way, and some members of the group have shared their stories about their connection to the ICA.

“Basically I’m just a fan!” – Alexandra Shulman “The ICA means experiment, courage and community. It’s very much owned by London, by the artists who

live and work here, and the community who are involved in art and culture.” – Sadie Coles

“It’s a great living breathing arts centre, as it should be!” – John Maybury

“The ICA is a bit like your parents: you grow up with your parents, you occasionally wander off and think “I’m going to do my own thing, I’ve had enough of this”, but you always come back and see them. I have a warm relationship with the ICA. You expect it to treat you well, and it always does.” – John Akomfrah

Forthcoming 70th Anniversary celebrations will take place later this year in Hong Kong and New York. Also marking their anniversary, the ICA look forward to releasing special artist editions by Neïl Beloufa, Zhang Enli, Cary Kwok, Prem Sahib and Chris Succo across the year. 


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