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Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952 - 1977

Group show at Commonwealth Institute. 1977
Date: 1 June, 1977 until 3 July, 1977
Curator: Donald Bowen
Organiser: Commonwealth Art Gallery

One of the most intriguing exhibitions to take place at the Commonwealth Institute, and one of the most intriguing exhibitions of the 1970s was ‘52 - ‘77 Commonwealth Artists of Fame. The exhibition brought together some of the leading white British artists of the time, such as Henry Moore, with their counterparts from other parts of the British Commonwealth, including the likes of Ronald Moody, F N Souza, and Avinash Chandra. Thus, the exhibition brought together artists from a plurality of backgrounds and countries of origin, within the jubilee year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and used the 25 year period of the jubilee to reflect on international art practices over that period of time.

This was a particularly global exhibition; M P Alladin from Trinidad, Oku Ampofo and Arthur Bucknor from Ghana, Douglas Bland, Henry Moore and Jack Shadbolt from England, Olayinke Burney-Nicol from Sierra Leone, Avinash Chandra, Maqbul Husain and Francis Newton Souza from India, Alex Colville and Jean-Paul Riopelle from Canada, Emanuel Vincent Cremona from Malta, Ben Enwonwu and Lamidi Fakeye from Nigeria, Irvine Homer and Sidney Nolan from Australia, John Hutton, Colin McCahon and Mountford Tosswill Woolaston from New Zealand, George Keyt from Sri Lanka, Lui Shou-Kwan and Chuah Thean Teng from China, Ronald Moody from Jamaica, Sam J Ntiro from Tanzania, Stass Paraskos from Cyprus and Aubrey Williams from Guyana. As the exhibition title indicated, these were all artists who had achieved fame and success both within and beyond their respective countries, exhibiting together, as equals.

The Foreword, written by the Director of the Commonwealth Institute (whose name is not noted and whose signature is undecipherable) as follows: “It is appropriate that the Commonwealth Art Gallery should mark the Silver Jubilee of H.M. The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth and the presence in London of the Commonwealth Heads of Government for one of their periodic meetings in June 1977.

We are deeply grateful to the artists and owners of works of art who have co-operated with us in making possible a necessarily selective exhibition…

We hope that our visitors will enjoy this glimpse of the diversity of artistic talent from many Commonwealth countries and learn something of its evolution over the past twenty-five years.”

The Introduction that followed was penned by the Curator of the Commonwealth Institute’s Art Gallery, Donald Bowen. Bowen was well placed to assemble such an exhibition and provide its overview. In the early 1960’s he had delivered a paper (subsequently appearing in print), titled Contemporary Art in the Commonwealth, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 113, No. 5101 (December 1964), pp. 15 - 29.

“Over the past twenty-five years there have been notable developments in all the arts throughout the Commonwealth. For people in Britain observing the scene, whether with objective or involved interest, the achievement of the newly independent countries is particularly inspiring and remarkable. Future historians will no doubt suggest and provide evidence of a number of causes of this widespread growth in activity. The story will vary from country to country; but common to most if not all explanations will be the attainment of independence, bringing with it a new recognition of history and past cultural achievement, together with the development of economic resources and changed social conditions. But this upsurge of activity, particularly to be noted in countries of the African continent and the Caribbean, is paralleled by the work of architects, musicians, film producers, writers, painters and sculptors in what most of us think of as the older countries, the older members of the Commonwealth whose cultures are in some cases much younger than those of the new, independent countries.

These cultural achievements have not passed unnoticed; on the contrary, they have been acclaimed at a succession of festivals and exhibitions and by publications throughout the world. The individual, in whatever manner involved, cannot keep up with or be fully informed of these achievements and has to content himself with a selection which has to be to some extent personal and arbitrary.

The Commonwealth Institute has played its part in all this activity. Its Art Gallery has organised nearly two hundred exhibitions since it opened fifteen years ago and in that time many countries have arranged national showings, many confirmed reputations have become more familiar, many young artists have taken their first steps in London. In November 1962, when H.M. The Queen opened the ‘new’ Institute, the Art Gallery contained Commonwealth Art Today, a large and appropriate exhibition for the occasion; Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952 - 1977 is, by its nature and intention, much smaller and much more selective but it continues the purpose and function of the gallery.”

Related items

click to show details of Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952 - 1977 - catalogue

»  Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952 - 1977 - catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1977

People in this exhibition + view all 27

»  Oku Ampofo

Born, 1908 in Ghana. Died, 1998

»  Douglas Bland

Born, 1923 in Eccleshall, England. Died, 1975

»  Arthur Kobina Bucknor

Born, 1925 in Gold Coast (Ghana). Died, 1975

»  Olayinka Burney-Nicol

Born, 1927 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Died, 1996

»  Lui Shou-Kwan

Born, 1919 in Canton, China. Died, 1975

Exhibition venues

»  Commonwealth Institute

London, United Kingdom