The aim of this talk is to provide an analytical overview of collecting practices and patronage of Surrealist art in Britain from 1938 to 1950, within the context of Surrealists’ strategies and methodologies for disseminating the aesthetics and ideologies of the movement internationally in the interwar and post-war periods. Specifically, the seminar focuses on networks that fostered and sustained Surrealism around the London Gallery, the Surrealist gallery active in England since the end of the 1930s managed by two Surrealist artists who were also collectors: the Belgian E.L.T. Mesens and his British colleague Roland Penrose.
The London Gallery inaugurated in 1938, two years after the significant International Surrealist Exhibition held at the New Burlington Galleries in London, a show followed by the foundation of the Surrealist British group. The research analyses the gallery’s cultural and commercial strategies and sheds new light on British Surrealism starting from the period when the group was created in 1936, thanks to the programmatic internationalization of the movement promoted by the French leader André Breton, until 1950, when the London Gallery closed for good. By analysing unpublished archival documents and photographs, the study reveals how in the unstable historical context of the 1930s and 1940s, the London Gallery not only deeply helped to promote Surrealism’s ideology in Britain, but also supported its elitist art market, patronage and collecting practices, involving shared political ideologies and a cultural avant-gardist vision.
Caterina Caputo received her Ph.D. in History of Art from the Universities of Florence. Her research interests and publications lie at the intersection of collecting, the art market, cultural dissemination, and transnational exchanges related to Surrealism, Avant-gardes, and Modernity. She turned her Ph.D. dissertation into the book Collezionismo e mercato. La London Gallery e la diffusione dell’arte surrealista, 1938-1950 (Florence: Pontecorboli, 2018), and published her research topics in academic journals, including Ricerche di storia dell’arte (2017), Getty Research Journal (2020), Piano b (2020), L’Uomo Nero (2021), Mélusine (forthcoming 2021). Moreover, she contributed to the Art Market Dictionary (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021).
Caterina has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Frick Art Reference Library (2018), as well as at the Center for Italian Modern Art in New York (2019). Recently, she has got the Jacqueline Delcourt–Nonkels Prize (Brussels, 2021) for her research on E.L.T. Mesens and Surrealism. Since 2019 she has been an External Teaching Assistant for the course in History of Contemporary Art and Photography at the University of Florence, and member of the Research-Lab “Gradiva – Centro di studi e ricerche sul surrealismo e sul modernismo.” At the moment Caterina is writing the books: E.L.T. Mesens e il Surrealismo in Italia negli anni Cinquanta e Sessanta (forthcoming); and The London Gallery, 1938-1940: Collecting, Patronage, and the Market for Surrealist Art in Britain (forthcoming.