The opening of the Broadway Gallery, a new gallery for Letchworth that will host a varying public exhibition programme of contemporary and historic art has been announced by Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation. The new gallery facility will be situated in the heart of Letchworth and is set to launch to the public on 24 February 2016 with ‘Reunion’, an exhibition of painter and printmaker Richard Smith (b.1931) displaying over 40 works from throughout the artist’s career.
Smith was born and grew up in Letchworth Garden City and the Broadway Gallery’s inaugural exhibition will celebrate the role that Letchworth had in inspiring one of the founders of Pop art. Smith grew up immersed in the city’s Arts and Crafts environment. The Garden City model originated in tandem with the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early twentieth century and Letchworth was the first Garden City to be built in 1903. It was founded by social visionary Ebenezer Howard with the aim of harnessing the best of both town and country life and improving on late 19th century living conditions.
Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation continues to administer the Garden City Estate on its founding principles, using the revenue from commercial rents to reinvest in the cultural and social wellbeing of the town. This unique model is a remarkable survival story at a time when funding to the arts is frequently under threat. Broadway Gallery also opens at a time when Garden Cities are being increasingly revisited by policy makers as part of the solution to today’s growth requirements.
‘Reunion’ will span six decades of Smith’s artistic practice, including drawings, paintings, collages and prints alongside a series of archival books, photographs and interviews. A highlight of the exhibition will be a series of 30 untitled works on paper from 1997 that is rarely shown in its entirety. Smith was a predecessor to well known Pop artists Patrick Caulfield and David Hockney and his work demonstrates a preoccupation with colour, texture and perspective that is indicative of the early Pop movement. From the 1960s his work has been characterised by its dimensionality, pushing the limits of the canvas as a flat material hung against the wall. Drawing inspiration from the immensity of billboard posters in the United States, where Smith has lived and worked since 1959, his works expand the perspective of the canvas itself through the use of dynamic colours and forms.
Laura Dennis, Visual Arts Curator of Broadway Gallery, said: “Visitors to the exhibition will discover the variety of techniques and media Richard Smith has used in his continued exploration of form and colour. Each drawing, painting and print reveals the artistic concerns that have motivated Smith for more than five decades. We are delighted to open the new Broadway Gallery with an exhibition that celebrates Letchworth’s connection to this remarkable artist.”
Richard Smith was born in 1931 in Letchworth Garden City, and lives and works in Long Island. He attended art school in Luton and St Albans before attending the Royal College of Art from 1954 to 1957, where he was a precursor of the generation of Pop artists that included David Hockney, Allen Jones and Patrick Caulfield. His work is held in the collections of Tate, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the collection of David Bowie. Richard Smith was a regular visitor to Andy Warhol’s Factory during the 1980s and his close friends included John Lennon, Joe Tilson and John Hoyland. Smith has had solo exhibitions at: Green Gallery (1961, New York), Whitechapel Gallery (1966, London), Modern Art Oxford (1972, Oxford), Hayward Gallery (1973, London), Tate Gallery (retrospective, 1975, London), and is now represented by Flowers Gallery. He represented Britain at the 35th Venice Biennale in 1970.
Curator Laura Dennis has more than 10 years’ experience curating exhibitions, managing visual arts projects and commissioning new works. She has delivered projects and exhibitions for Oxford University, Transport for London, Southbank Centre, and the Norwich Gallery. She is working on an exciting first programme for the gallery, with exhibitions by internationally renowned artists as well as local and emerging talent. The Gallery will focus on the visual arts, including painting, sculpture and photography, but will also show exhibitions of contemporary craft and design.
She said: “I am thrilled to be joining the team at such an exciting time for the arts in Letchworth, and I cannot wait to open the Gallery next year. We have some fantastic exhibitions lined up, showing works by some incredible artists, plus a great programme of events that I am really looking forward to.” Laura is working with community groups, schools and local practitioners to help shape a dynamic calendar of Gallery-based workshops and events to complement the exhibition programme.
The Broadway Gallery is part of a collection of arts spaces owned and managed by the Foundation, which includes a community museum in The Arcade. A new theatre is to be built at Broadway Cinema in 2016 as well, as part of the Heritage Foundation’s plans to make the town a hub for the arts.