| The Mall, London
(offices in Carlton House Terrace)
|Public transit access
| Charing Cross
The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) is an artistic and cultural centre on The Mall in London, just off Trafalgar Square. Located within Nash House, part of Carlton House Terrace, near the Duke of York Steps and Admiralty Arch, the ICA contains galleries, a theatre, two cinemas, a bookshop and a bar.
The ICA was founded by Roland Penrose, Peter Watson, Herbert Read, Peter Gregory,Geoffrey Grigson and E. L. T. Mesens in 1946. The ICA's founders intended to establish a space where artists, writers and scientists could debate ideas outside the traditional confines of the Royal Academy. The model for establishing the ICA was the earlier Leeds Arts Club, founded in 1903 by Alfred Orage, of which Herbert Read had been a leading member. Like the ICA, this too was a centre for multi-disciplinary debate, combined with avant-garde art exhibition and performances, within a framework that emphasised a radical social outlook.
The first two exhibitions at the ICA, 40 Years of Modern Art and 40,000 Years of Modern Art, were organised by Penrose, and reflected his interests in Cubism and African art, taking place in the basement of the Academy Cinema, 165 Oxford Street. The Academy Cinema building included the Pavilion, a restaurant, and the Marquee ballroom in the basement; the building was managed by George Hoellering, the film, jazz and big band promoter.In 1968 Jasia Reichardt curated the exhibition on computer generated art and music: Cybernetic Serendipity at the ICA.
With the acquisition of 17 Dover Street, Piccadilly, in May 1950, the ICA was able to expand considerably. Ewan Phillips served as the first director. It was the former residence of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. The gallery, clubroom and offices were refurbished by modernist architect Jane Drew assisted by Neil Morris and Eduardo Paolozzi. Paolozzi decorated the bar area and designed a metal and concrete table with student Terence Conran.
Ewan Phillips left in 1951, and Dorothy Morland was asked to take over temporarily, but stayed there as director for 18 years, until the move to the more spacious Nash House.The critic Reyner Banham acted as assistant Director during the early 1950s, followed by Lawrence Alloway during the mid- to later 1950s. In its early years, the Institute organised exhibitions of modern art including Picasso and Jackson Pollock. A Georges Braque exhibition was held at the ICA in 1954. The first woman to exhibit there was Fahrelnissa Zeid in 1956. It also launched Pop art, Op art, and British Brutalist art and architecture. The Independent Group met at the ICA in 1952–1962/63 and organised several exhibitions, including This Is Tomorrow .
With the support of the Arts Council, the ICA moved to its current site at Nash House in 1968. For a period during the 1970s the institute was known for its often anarchic programme and administration. Norman Rosenthal, then director of exhibitions, was once assaulted by a group of people who were living in the upper floors of the building: a bloodstain on the wall of the administrative offices is preserved under glass, with a note reading "this is Normans's blood". Rosenthal claims the group which assaulted him included the actor Keith Allen.
Bill McAllister was ICA Director from 1977 to 1990, when the Institute developed a system of separate departments specializing in visual art; cinema; and theatre, music and performance art. A fourth department was devoted to talks and lectures. Iwona Blazwick was Director of Exhibitions from 1986 to 1993. Other notable curatorial and programming staff have included Lisa Appignanesi (deputy director of ICA and Head of Talks, 1980–90), James Lingwood (Exhibition Curator, 1986–90), Michael Morris (Director of Theatre), Lois Keidan, (Director of Live Arts, 1992–97), Catherine Ugwu, MBE (deputy director of Live Arts, 1991–97), Tim Highsted (deputy director of Cinema, 1988–95) and Jens Hoffmann (Director of Exhibitions, 2003–07).
Mik Flood took over as director of the ICA in 1990 after McAllister's resignation. Flood announced that the Institute would have to leave its Mall location and move to a larger site, a plan that ultimately came to nothing.He also oversaw a sponsorship scheme whereby the electrical goods company Toshiba paid to have their logo included on every piece of ICA publicity for three years, and in effect changed the name of the ICA to ICA/Toshiba. He was replaced as Director in 1997 by Philip Dodd. In 2002, the then ICA Chairman Ivan Massow criticised what he described as "concept art", leading to his resignation.
Following the departure of Dodd, the ICA appointed Ekow Eshun as artistic director in 2005.Under Eshun's directorship the Live Arts Department was closed down in 2008, the charge for admission for non-members was abandoned (resulting in a reduction of membership numbers and a cash shortfall), the Talks Department lost all its personnel, and many commentators argued that the Institute suffered from a lack of direction. A large financial deficit led to redundancies and resignations of key staff. Art critic JJ Charlesworth saw Eshun’s directorship as a direct cause of the ICA's ills; criticizing Eshun's reliance on private sponsorship, his cultivation of a "cool" ICA brand, and his focus on a cross-disciplinary approach that was put in place "at the cost", Charlesworth wrote "of a loss of curatorial expertise." Problems between staff and Eshun, sometimes supported by the Chairman of the ICA Board, Alan Yentob, led to fractious and difficult staff relations. Eshun resigned in August 2010, and Yentob announced he would leave.
In January 2011, the ICA appointed as its Executive Director Gregor Muir, who took up his post on 7 February 2011.Muir stepped down in 2016 and was replaced by former Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár.
Membership of the ICA is available to the general public. The ICA is constituted as a private limited company and registered charity, run by a 13-member Board and led by a Director.
Stass Paraskos was an artist from Cyprus, although much of his life was spent teaching and working in England.
Sir Herbert Edward Read, was an English art historian, poet, literary critic and philosopher, best known for numerous books on art, which included influential volumes on the role of art in education. Read was co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. As well as being a prominent English anarchist, he was one of the earliest English writers to take notice of existentialism. He was co-editor with Michael Fordham and Gerhard Adler of the British edition in English of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung.
Richard William Hamilton CH was an English painter and collage artist. His 1955 exhibition Man, Machine and Motion and his 1956 collage Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?, produced for the This Is Tomorrow exhibition of the Independent Group in London, are considered by critics and historians to be among the earliest works of pop art. A major retrospective of his work was at Tate Modern in 2014.
The Independent Group (IG) met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, England, from 1952 to 1955. The IG consisted of painters, sculptors, architects, writers and critics who wanted to challenge prevailing modernist approaches to culture. They introduced mass culture into debates about high culture, re-evaluated modernism and created the "as found" or "found object" aesthetic. The subject of renewed interest in a post-disciplinary age, the IG was the topic of a two-day, international conference at the Tate Britain in March 2007. The Independent Group is regarded as the precursor to the Pop Art movement in Britain.
Sir Roland Algernon Penrose was an English artist, historian and poet. He was a major promoter and collector of modern art and an associate of the surrealists in the United Kingdom. During the Second World War he put his artistic skills to practical use as a teacher of camouflage.
Lawrence Reginald Alloway was an English art critic and curator who worked in the United States from 1961. In the 1950s, he was a leading member of the Independent Group in the UK and in the 1960s was an influential writer and curator in the US. He first used the term "mass popular art" in the mid-1950s and used the term "Pop Art" in the 1960s to indicate that art has a basis in the popular culture of its day and takes from it a faith in the power of images. From 1954 until his death in 1990, he was married to the painter Sylvia Sleigh.
Ekow Eshun is a British writer, journalist, broadcaster, and curator.
Sir Norman Rosenthal is a British independent curator and art historian. From 1970 to 1974 he was Exhibitions Officer at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. In 1974 he became a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, leaving in 1976. The following year, in 1977, he joined the Royal Academy in London as Exhibitions Secretary where he remained until his resignation in 2008. Rosenthal has been a trustee of numerous different national and international cultural organisations since the 1980s; he is currently on the board of English National Ballet. In 2007, he was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Rosenthal is well known for his support of contemporary art, and is particularly associated with the German artists Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Julian Schnabel, the Italian painter Francesco Clemente, and the generation of British artists that came to prominence in the early 1990s known as the YBAs.
This Is Tomorrow was an art exhibition in August 1956 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on Whitechapel High Street in London's East End, UK, facilitated by curator Bryan Robertson. The core of the exhibition was the ICA Independent Group.
The Leeds Arts Club was founded in 1903 by the Leeds primary school teacher Alfred Orage and Holbrook Jackson, a lace merchant and freelance journalist, and was one of the most advanced centres for modernist thinking, radical thought and experimental art in Britain in the pre-First World War period.
Anthony Howell is an English poet, novelist and performance artist. He was a founder of the performance company The Theatre of Mistakes, in the 1970s and 1980s.
Jasia Reichardt is a British art critic, curator, art gallery director, teacher and prolific writer, specialist in the emergence of computer art. In 1968 she was curator of the landmark Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts. She is generally known for her work on experimental art. After the deaths of Franciszka and Stefan Themerson she catalogued their archive and looks after their legacy.
Gregor Muir is Director of Collection, International Art, at Tate, having previously been the Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London from 2011 until 2016. He was the director of Hauser & Wirth, London, at 196a Piccadilly, from 2004 - 2011. He is also the author of a 2009 memoir in which he recounts his direct experience of the YBA art scene in 1990s London.
Michael Paraskos, FHEA, FRSA is a novelist, lecturer and writer on art. He has written several non-fiction and fiction books and essays, and articles on art, literature, culture and politics for various publications, including Art Review, The Epoch Times, The Guardian newspaper and The Spectator magazine. In the past he has reviewed art exhibitions for BBC radio, curated exhibitions, and taught in universities and colleges in Britain and elsewhere. He has a particular focus on modern art, having published books on the art theorist Herbert Read, and he is also known for his theories connecting anarchism and modern art. He lives in West Norwood in south London.
William Turnbull was a Scottish artist.
Philip Dodd is an English broadcaster, entrepreneur, curator, writer and editor. He is chairman of the creative industries company Made in China.
Eric Craven Gregory, also known as Peter Gregory, was a publisher and benefactor of modern art and artists.
Leeds is known for its culture in the fields of art, architecture, music, sport, film and television. As the largest city in Yorkshire, Leeds is a centre of Yorkshire's contemporary culture and is the base for Yorkshire's television and regional newspapers.
The Academy was a cinema located at 165 Oxford Street, Westminster, at the junction of Poland Street. Films were shown at the address from at least 1906, and it opened in January 1913 as the Picture House to show The Miracle, with the intention of becoming "the home of the world's most realistic films". The Picture House continued to show films throughout the 1920s.
The Stass Paraskos obscenity trial was a notorious court case held in the northern English city of Leeds in 1966 involving an exhibition of paintings by the Cyprus-born British artist, Stass Paraskos.