Cataloguing the ICA’s history: an ephemeral past

Conference paper

Massey, A. 2014. Cataloguing the ICA’s history: an ephemeral past. Association of Art Historians Annual Conference. Royal College of Art 10 - 12 Apr 2014
TypeConference paper
TitleCataloguing the ICA’s history: an ephemeral past
AuthorsMassey, A.

This paper argues for the importance of the exhibition catalogue in the history of art, and for institutional histories in particular. The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) has been overlooked in the history of modern art, with the exception of the Independent Group, which is usually slotted into the neat trajectory of the patrilineage of Pop Art. Zooming out from the Independent Group, this paper offers a reading of the catalogues produced by the ICA from 1948-68 as experimental objects in their own right. Often classified as ‘Ephemera’, the content of these rare publications reveal the subtle changes in the avant garde, and suggests that the institution can be categorised as author.
Taking key examples, starting with 40 Years of Modern Art and including Richard Hamilton’s design for the 1950, James Joyce: His Life and Work exhibition, plus the highly innovative, fold out catalogue for an exhibit of 1957, the paper will offer a reading of the history of the ICA through its catalogues. Mounting 12 exhibitions per year from 1948-1968, this is rich source material, and often the only remaining trace of an ICA exhibition in the archive. The paper concludes with the typographic adventure of the Between Poetry and Painting (1965) exhibition catalogue, and the highly innovative, Cybernetic Serendipity (1968). These catalogues capture the ICA’s changing sense of itself, and of avant garde practice.

Research GroupVisual Culture and Curating cluster
ConferenceAssociation of Art Historians Annual Conference
Publication process dates
Deposited28 May 2015
Completed12 Apr 2014
Output statusPublished
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