The New Art

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 17 August – 24 September 1972

The First Institutional Survey of British Conceptual Art
The New Art was the first institutional survey of British conceptual art. The curator Anne Seymour – assisted by an advisory committee that included Richard Hamilton, Adrian Heath, and Joe Tilson, as well as by the Arts Council’s Nicholas Serota – sought to address work by British conceptual artists associated with Land Art and Arte Povera who had frequently been exhibited abroad, but rarely in the UK. 

The 14 artists included in the exhibition were: Keith Arnatt, Art & Language, Victor Burgin, Michael Craig-Martin, David Dye, Barry Flanagan, Hamish Fulton, Gilbert & George, John Hilliard, Richard Long, Keith Milow, Gerald Newman, John Stezaker and David Tremlett.

Internal memo announcing the exhibition, which was provisionally titled 'Magic and Strong Medicine'.

Internal Arts Council memo announcing the exhibition, now titled The New Art.

An Unconventional Exhibition
As the exhibition’s press release stated, visitors to The New Art encountered ‘films, photographs, words, sounds’ and ‘arrangements of unexpected materials’. Seymour asked: ‘Should art be what people expect? Must it be made of art materials? Need it hang on walls or sit on pedestals, and need it be permanent and saleable?’ Distributed across the upper and lower galleries were works including Richard Long’s Three Circles of Stones (1972), Michael Craig-Martin’s Six images of an electric fan (1972) and Victor Burgin’s Room (1970).

Exhibition plan, showing the layout of The New Art (1972). Gilbert & George occupied the first room of the gallery, with Richard Long's Three Circles of Stones (1972) exhibited at the top of the ramp.

Installation notes for artists and artworks in The New Art (1972).

Artist Gerald Newman pictured within his installation for The New Art (1972).

Barry Flanagan's Hayward II (1972)

Keith Arnatt's Institutional Fact (1972).

Richard Long's Three Circles of Stones (1972).

The artists Gilbert & George featured on the exhibition's private view card, and poster.

Norbert Lynton, Director of Exhibitions at Hayward Gallery expresses his admiration for curator Anne Seymour's 'convinced and convincing efforts' in creating a 'very worthwhile exhibition'.

The New Art was challenging for visitors and critics, and even for the gallery’s Director of Exhibitions, Norbert Lynton. ‘I cannot find much to love in it’, he wrote in a letter to a visitor, ‘but a lot to think about.’

While Nigel Gosling, writing for The Observer suggested that '...to enjoy it – which is possible though not easy – you should have the guilelessness of the dove and the cunning of the serpent', Richard Cork, writing in the Evening Standard praised Anne Seymour’s ‘courage, intelligence and care.’

Michael Shepherd, writing for The Telegraph, stated that 'It is the sort of exhibition which, as a well-balanced demonstration and documentation of what a large number of young contemporary artists are interested in doing in as much freedom as they may have, one would recommend to every reader.'

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