Past Events

Negotiating the “Eclectic Sources” of Modern Sculpture at the ICA (1948–53)

Research Lunch – Lisa Newby

  • 8 March 2024
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

An expanded, interdisciplinary approach to artists’ sources of inspiration was integral to the Institute of Contemporary Art’s founding vision when they launched their first exhibition projects in London in 1948, with aspirations to be a national centre for the “living arts”. Concepts of universal form and creative connectivity were promoted, contested and reconfigured through a lively public programme, which influenced definitions of modern sculpture. This talk will reflect on how Henry Moore’s involvement with the ICA between 1948 and 1953 intersected with his enduring and increasingly public commitment to museums as sites of inspiration and to a “world tradition” in sculpture. Drawing on a context where ideas about this were in flux, I will explore how the terms and assumptions being negotiated at the ICA impacted on the changing relevance of Moore’s approach to sources of inspiration for artists and the wider public. I use the fractious, unresolved nature of exhibitions and debates addressing the “eclectic sources” of modern art at the ICA in this period to position Moore’s approach as historically rooted, contentious and consistently experienced in multiple ways. I will argue that this can be a productive starting point for opening up the contemporary relevance of this aspect of Moore’s practice.

Image credit: Installation photograph for Institute of Contemporary Arts, London exhibition 40,000 Years of Modern Art, c. 1949. Collection Tate (TGA 955/1/12/12). Image courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Arts, London / Photo: Tate

About the speaker

  • NEWBY, Lisa, Headshot

    Lisa Maddigan Newby is an art historian. Her research focuses on the interdisciplinary networks and exhibition cultures associated with London’s post-war art world. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Henry Moore Foundation. Lisa completed an AHRC-funded PhD at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2017, where she is an honorary researcher. She has worked as an associate tutor, research assistant and project curator at UEA, and as a research assistant at the University of Oxford. Before studying for her PhD, Lisa worked as a museum curator and as a project manager for artist-led galleries and studios.