It's opening a public space with talks, exhibitions and events after a century of supporting the arts from the background
Good news from the Contemporary Art Society, which has been a shadowy but important presence in the London art scene: it's opening a public space with talks, exhibitions and events after a century of supporting the arts from the background.
The CAS's new home, at 59 Central Street, near Old Street (and the Spear's offices), is a response to the financial crisis and the consequent government arts cuts: if the government wants to see that people enjoy Contemporary art, that it makes a valuable contribution to our cultural lives, then let them see this.
So, this year's Turner Prize winner, Elizabeth Price, will show video work and give a talk on 17 January, and Stephen Nelson will put on a display too. Other artists talks will follow, perhaps by CAS beneficiaries like Jeremy Deller or Bob and Roberta Smith.
Pictured above: The Contemporary Art Society's new public space on Central Road
As well as the blowsy embrace I'd give any new gallery and art space, the CAS's decision is particularly delightful for two reasons: first, they have intensely good contacts with the art world, and so will be able to secure great speakers and shows.
And second, it will allow more people to appreciate quite how important the Contemporary Art Society is to our art scene. For a century now they have been buying work from young artists for museums and galleries in the UK – 8,000 in fact, including all the modern British greats. They also convince philanthropists to donate from their private collections.
Pictured above: Langlands & Bell Moving World, Contemporary Art Society Consultancy commission for BAA Heathrow Terminal 5
Late last year I went to a dinner at the V&A – a long table for sixty people set in the beautiful sculpture gallery – to celebrate 20 years of the CASS Sculpture Foundation near Chichester. Well, Eric and Jean Cass, through the brokering of CAS (nominative determinism in action), have now donated over 300 sculptures, including Hepworth, Moore, Paolozzi and Picasso, to public institutions.
If their new building helps us to appreciate quite how wonderful the Contemporary Art Society is, it will bring a double benefit to the art world and wider society.