The Buck Stopped Here: London’s ICA celebrates 70th birthday with a family photo

The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

Today marks the 70th anniversary of when, on 30 January 1946, the illustrious trio of the art critic Herbert Read, the poet and Surrealist artist Roland Penrose and the Belgian gallerist E.L.T. Mesens called the first-ever meeting of The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). In attendance at 23 Brook Street were key figures from the post-war British art world, including the experimental filmmaker Peter Brunius, the leading patron Peter Watson, G.M. Hoellering, the manager of the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street and Peter Gregory, the chair of Lund Humphries Publishers and director of the Burlington Magazine. To mark this significant occasion the ICA has rounded up a posse of culturally esteemed contemporary equivalents to gather for a group photograph, shot by the patron Maryam Eisler outside the Institute’s current front door on the Mall.

Each of the multigenerational individuals—grouped around the current director Gregor Muir and the chair Alison Myners—has made a significant contribution to the ICA’s history both past and recent. They include the artists Mark Leckey and Prem Sahib (sporting a specially designed ICA jacket by Peter Blake from the 1970s) who have both recently shown at the ICA, associate artists NTS Radio and Betty Woodman who are currently occupying the galleries. Then there are the esteemed film makers John Maybury and John Akomfrah; the curator Jasia Reichardt who was the ICA’s assistant director from 1963 to 1971 and a bevy of council members past and present including the gallerist Sadie Coles; Alexandra Shulman, the editor in chief of British Vogue and the deputy mayor for education and culture, Munira Mirza. Everyone brought their ICA memories to the shoot, but Prem Sahib expressed the views of everyone present when he declared that the ICA “feels like it’s one big family.”