Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946-1968

Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946-1968

Anne Massey & Gregor Muir


'...this beautifully produced book looks back to the decades when the ICA was almost alone in flying the flag for modernism in this country, creating a template... that has been imitated the world over' - Mark Hudson, Daily Telegraph

The ICA is delighted to present Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946 – 1968, the first in-depth examination of this extraordinary period. No other book can claim to capture the founding spirit of this incredible organisation in quite the same way. The early ICA hosted the most important shows in the history of post-war British art, including Growth and Form, Parallel Of Life and Art, and Cybernetic Serendipity, as well as ground-breaking exhibitions by Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock. Home to the Independent Group, whose members included Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi alongside architects Alison and Peter Smithson, the ICA became the birthplace of Pop Art, Op Art and Brutalist Architecture.

Illustrated with previously rare and unseen items from the ICA archive, Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946 – 1968 is written by art historian Anne Massey with a foreword by ICA Executive Director Gregor Muir. The timing of this publication is connected to three related events, two of which directly concern Richard Hamilton, a remarkable artist whose work and career is inextricably linked to the ICA. The first is Tate Modern’s 2014 Hamilton retrospective, a comprehensive survey show held in the wake of the artist’s passing in 2011. The second is a parallel exhibition, Richard Hamilton at the ICA (from 12 Feb), which is dedicated to two of Hamilton’s seminal early installations – Man Machine and Motion (1955) and an Exhibit (1957). The third is an ICA Off-Site project, a takeover of Dover Street Market (from 11 Feb), the former home of the ICA.

This publication takes us on a journey from the ICA's origins, to its earliest outings on Oxford Street, its arrival on Dover Street and the eventual move to its present location on The Mall. The supporting text outlines key exhibitions and events, as well as critical responses to the ICA programme at the time. By examining and contemplating these developments, Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946 - 1968 makes a vital contribution to the history and understanding of contemporary art.

'Reviewing recent ICA literature, it would appear that one of the hallmarks of such a progressive institution is its eagerness to do away with the rear-view mirror and press on. But if we pause for a moment, we discover an extraordinary legacy, unparalleled in terms of how a single organisation would promote the cause of contemporary art and culture in Britain.' - Gregor Muir, Executive Director.

Thanks to the following supporters who helped fund the production of this book: Christie’s, Dover Street Market, The Paul Mellon Centre For Studies in British Art, The Henry Moore Foundation and the ICA publication supporter’s group including Ajaz Ahmed, founder and CEO of AKQA, Josh Berger, Sara Blonstein, British Vogue, Sadie Coles HQ, Dimitri Goulandris, Brent Hoberman, Co-founder Profounders Capital, Simon Jenkins, Beeban Kidron and Lee Hall, Emily King & Matthew Slotover, Jack Kirkland, David Kotler, Sydney Levinson, Alison and Paul Myners, Monica O’Neill, Malcolm Poynton, Hannah Rothschild, Rumi Verjee and all those who wish to remain anonymous.