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AICA UK President’s Annual Report

19/11/2015

AICA UK President’s Report

 

In October 2014 I stepped down as Chair of the AICA International Congress Commission to assume my new role as Secretary- General. I also continued to complete a second term as President of the UK section. In December we hosted the art critic of The New York Times, Roberta Smith, who gave one of the most successful of our Annual Lectures, in association with Tate. Roberta spoke informally and soon engaged the audience with her honest and uncompromising approach to writing for the broad readership of a national paper. She offered a new perspective to the art of criticism, following the more art historical and theoretical approaches of previous lectures. This year we decided to suspend our Annual Lecture because we were invited to host the AICA International Congress in London from 26-29 October.

 

With such a short lead time, we decided to adopt a different Congress format, with no call for papers but speakers elected with the advice of an editorial group of AICA members. I am very grateful to the group and to all our speakers who readily responded to the theme with succinct and strongly argued presentations. I am delighted that we were able to work in partnership with the Courtauld Institute, and we must offer warm thanks to Sarah Wilson for negotiating the keynote lecture arrangements. I am very grateful to Michaela Crimmin of Culture+Conflict and the Royal College of Art for working with us on the Congress symposium. Michael Asbury, of Chelsea College of Art gave invaluable support in the arrangements for our Congress meetings at the College. I would also like to thank Raphael Cuir and AICA France for his collaboration and for securing sponsorship from the Institut Francais to fund our three speakers from France.

 

We also thank the National Gallery and Royal Academy for hosting delegates at breakfast receptions of the Goya and Ai Wei Wei exhibitions, kindly facilitated by Angus Stewart. The Canadian Commission generously hosted the meetings of the AICA Commissions. I am very pleased that we were able to employ Jill Sheridan, who ran the administrative arrangements for the last London Congress in 2000, as Congress Organiser. JiIl managed a packed gallery tour for delegates beginning with Matts Gallery and a very enjoyable conversation between Robin Klassnik and exhibiting artist Gerard Hemsworth and finishing with an evening reception hosted by Gasworks.

 

The Congress attracted over 100 delegates form 19 countries; we were pleased to accommodate students from the Courtauld and RCA and honoured that artist Gustav Metzger was our guest for the symposium. The audio recordings of the lectures and a short film will be posted on the AICA website where there is also posted a blog on the day by member Paul O’Kane. Our international colleagues have paid tribute to the welcome they received and to the quality and range of speakers at the symposium which was ably chaired by Anna Somers Cocks, CEO of The Art Newspaper. The relatively modest costs of the Congress were shared between AICAUK and AICA International and we are immensely grateful to our partners for their in kind support. Although the timing of the Congress, at the start of the academic year, meant that many AICAUK members could not attend the whole week, I was pleased that several came to the General Assembly when colleagues from the Rennes Archives presented an important research project which will examine the AICA archives from 1948-2003 through a transversal history of art criticism and the social-political, cultural and scientific issues of the time. We offer warm congratulations to Sarah Wilson who was awarded the AICA International Award for distinguished contribution to art criticism.

 

We also congratulate four AICA UK members: Michael Asbury, Richard Dyer, Chris Fite-Wassilak and Paul O’Kane who were elected as AICA International members to sit on the Administrative Council for 2016. Chairs of the AICA Commissions were also elected and UK members are invited to contribute to their work; their mandates are posted on the AICA International website. The Congress Commission will be chaired by Carlos Acero Ruiz of the Dominican Republic who will work with the Cuban section which hopes to host the 2016 Congress in Havana.

 

While the Congress has taken up much of my time, I have focused on recruiting a new Administrative Assistant for the Paris Office, Florence Bequignon, who has strong administrative experience and is fluent in all three of the AICA official languages. Our priorities are to embed a new financial system and to update the AICA membership database. We encourage all UK members to register on the website and update their contact details and it is vitally important that all members pay their dues in full and on time, please! Our membership now stands at 300. This year we lost one of our Honorary Members, Brian Sewell, who died in September. Brian was a robust critic of contemporary art, and its curators. He was also, exceptionally for an art critic, a household name in London and his obituaries ran to column inches in the national press. Brian was never afraid of making a judgment, perhaps his greatest legacy, in a field which, arguably, has fallen short in this essential obligation.

The Executive met four times and we were pleased to hold the Summer Party at the Camden Art Centre to celebrate its 50th Anniversary and warmly thank Director Jenni Lomax and her team. Having been President of AICA UK since 2009, I feel it is time for someone else to take forward the work which the Executive has achieved over the last years. I am happy to continue until my successor comes forward and would invite members to consider joining the Executive whose great conversation and support I have had the pleasure and the privilege of enjoying. We need new voices and ideas, especially now when art criticism can be seen to offer a prism of both the art of our time and contemporary issues.

 

Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton