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Cosmopolis: The Impact of Refugee Art Dealers in London




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Wednesday, 26 June 2024 to Friday, 6 September 2024

Ben Uri Gallery is delighted to announce the upcoming exhibition Cosmopolis: The Impact of Refugee Art Dealers in London.

Following the rise of Nazism and chaos of global warfare in the 1930s–40s, over 50 art dealers, largely but not exclusively Jewish, were driven out of Continental Europe to seek refuge in Britain. Settling in London, they fostered new ties within the existing British art world and joined an ever-growing artistic émigré network. Founding galleries that welcomed international art trends, their presence had a transformative effect on the insular British art scene of the 1930s. Over three decades they played a major, but still under acknowledged, role in transforming London into a world art capital to rival New York and Paris. This was celebrated in 1964 in an exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester called Cosmopolis: The School of London, that claimed London as the heir to interwar Paris on the basis of an art world made diverse and vibrant by immigration, and which inspired the present exhibition’s title.

Founded on new doctoral research, Cosmopolis offers an episodic, rather than comprehensive, history of 21 individuals who had particular influence on the modern and contemporary art market from the 1930s to the 1960s. It will highlight stories of the artists they promoted, and the new networks and spaces they created for artistic exchange and dissemination. Four key areas of activity are explored: the introduction of German modernism to a largely indifferent and Francophile British public (Carl Braunschweig and Alfred Flechtheim); the opening of wartime galleries that sustained Britain’s émigré artists through the Blitz (Jack Bilbo, Lea Bondi Jaray, Paul Wengraf and Roland, Browse and Delbanco); the postwar rebuilding of London’s devastated art market on an international footing (Hanover Gallery, Gimpel Fils, and Marlborough Fine Art); and the promotion of Black and South Asian artists arriving from the Commonwealth in the 1940s and 1950s (William Ohly, Annely Juda and Mateusz Grabowski). Underpinning each story is the tireless networking and forging of personal relationships undertaken by refugee dealers, rendering them more visible in the structures of the art world and art history.

Many of these individuals were behind the careers of a number of Britain’s most important and revered modern artists. Loan artists from both public and private collections include: Kenneth Armitage, Frank Auerbach, Sandra Blow, Lynn Chadwick, Avinash Chandra, Alan Davie, Paul Klee and Aubrey Williams. Ben Uri collection artists include Lucian Freud, Josef Herman, Peter Laszlo Peri, Kurt Schwitters, and Katerina Wilczynski.

A fully illustrated online publication and series of events will accompany the exhibition.

Venue ( Address ): 

108a Boundary Road, NW8 0RH

Other events from Ben Uri Gallery and Museum

US: From There to Here
04/10/2024 to 06/14/2024
Cosmopolis: The Impact of Refugee Art Dealers in London
06/26/2024 to 09/06/2024
Art and Books Charity Sale at Ben Uri
03/15/2024 to 03/31/2024
Uncharted Streets: Photographs from the Hyman Collection
01/17/2024 to 03/08/2024


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