AN ICONIC EXHIBITION

This is tomorrow.

London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 9 August – 9 September 1956.

Square 8vo (166 x 166 mm), ff. [66]; printed in monochrome offset lithography, outermost leaves with printed colour; spiral-bound as issued; outer corners a little bumped, nonetheless a very well-preserved copy.

£400

Approximately:
US $549€468

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First edition, one of 1300 copies, of the catalogue of the seminal exhibition of contemporary British art, architecture, and design, which took place at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1956, in collaboration with members of the Independent Group.

An exhibition ‘of major importance for young avant-garde artists and architects in England’, This is Tomorrow ‘gave them the opportunity to create concrete answers to the question, hotly debated at the time, of the relation between the new art and architecture’ (Grieve, p. 225). The thirty-eight participants formed twelve groups, which worked towards producing one artwork, and the resulting exhibition was then formed of twelve sections. Broadly speaking, the participants could be divided into two groups: the constructivists (or ‘formal’), led by Victor Pasmore in collaboration with Erno Goldfinger, and those (the ‘popular’) who drew from Dada and Surrealism, prominent among them Eduardo Paolozzi.

‘An iconic show in its conception and realisation it has continuously interested artists, theorists and curators ever since due to the challenge it posed for the creative practitioners and visitors alike. The former, as each group was polymorphic formed by an architect, a designer, an artist and a theorist, were requested to amalgamate their individual approaches and produce a work by deploying a new methodology. The latter, with no interpretation panels and other information available, had to make their own judgements as to how to navigate inside the gallery and interpret the works they viewed.’ (Whitechapel Art Gallery online).

The ‘superb catalogue’, designed by Edward Wright and priced at five shillings, ‘was much more ambitious than those previously published by the gallery’ (Grieve, p. 229). It featured, among others, essays by Reyner Banham and Lawrence Alloway.

Provenance: from the library of the architect Franc Dixon (Stockton-on-Tees, 1928 – Zurich, 2019), who worked with Victor Pasmore on the New Towns of Hemel Hempstead (1952-54) and Peterlee (1955-60). Dixon studied Architecture at Durham University 1945-49, before becoming RIBA Associate in 1955, and RIBA Fellow in 1970.

See Grieve, ‘“This is Tomorrow”, a remarkable exhibition born from contention’ in The Burlington Magazine 136, no. 1093 (April 1994), pp. 225-232.

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