At the end of the 1960s British artists related to conceptual art – some directly, such as Art & Language, others by association, such as Gilbert & George and Richard Long – all had their first solo shows in continental Europe. It was there too, not in the UK, that their American counterparts, such as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Douglas Huebler and Lawrence Weiner, were shown before appearing in London’s galleries. The 1970s, however, saw the growth of a network of figures and institutions that supported the activities of conceptual and related art practices in London and the UK more widely. The role of contemporary gallerists, critics, curators and collectors in developing the visibility and reception of this work remains underrepresented, particularly that of female figures who were key contributors, such as Barbara Reise, Lynda Morris and Anne Seymour.
More extensive air travel coupled with the development of ‘dematerialised’ practices in the 1960s increased the circulation of artists between America and Europe. The reception of conceptual practices in the UK in the 1970s was a significant step in London’s entry into this developing art world. Networks enabled artists both to realise their work and to circulate between different cities and countries.
Marcel Broodthaers’s interactions with these networks exemplifies their growth over the decade. The Belgian artist had his first London-based show at the newly founded Jack Wendler Gallery in late 1972 and moved to the city at the beginning of the following year. Institutions central to the development of new art in the UK, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Museum of Modern Art Oxford, the Jack Wendler and Nigel Greenwood galleries, and the magazine Studio International, all became hosts to or supporters of Broodthaers’s work.
This conference will draw together research that explores, in depth, these networks as they coalesce around Broodthaers’s career, whether directly coming into contact with it or not. Taking Broodthaers as its touchstone, it will explore, on the one hand, the aesthetics and politics of experimental practices that become public in England in the 1970s, both before and after Broodthaers’ death in 1976, and simultaneously on the other, the practical and intellectual ambience in which they came into being and into conversation with one another. The conference will have an introduction by Professor Jo Melvin, Chelsea College of Arts, who, alongside the convenors, will be one of the panel chairs.
We invite scholarship from academics, researchers, curators, archivists and postgraduates. Proposals should cover one or more of the following themes:
1. Networks: The networks of figures and institutions, particularly those that remain underrepresented, that spanned between Britain and continental Europe in the 1970s and supported the practice of conceptual and related artists.
2. Curators and gallerists: The role of individual curators and gallerists in the development of these networks.
3. Institutions: The responses of state-funded institutions to exhibiting conceptual art in the UK in the 1970s.
4. Reception: British art publications and critics, and the part both played in developing these networks and in the reception of conceptual art in the UK in the 1970s.
5. Aesthetic Formats: The development of exhibition strategies and aesthetic formats within the context of these networks.
6. Curation: Retrospective curation of work from this period that was often dematerialised and site-specific.
Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by 10 March 2023. The conference is scheduled to take place on Friday 23 June 2023 at Chelsea College of Art, London.
Convenors: Andrew Chesher (Senior Lecturer, Fine Art Programme, Chelsea College of Art) and Deborah Schultz (Senior Lecturer and Course Leader BA Liberal Arts, Regent’s University London).