Thursday 29 March 2012


"In 1962 Oscar Niemeyer was invited by the Lebanese Government to study the plan of the construction of the International Exhibition Centre of Tripoli. He lived in the city for two months, and during this time he collaborated with Dar al Handasah to design and realise the plans of the various edifices of the fair: the Lebanese Pavilion, the Space Museum, the Experimental Theatre, the Housing Museum and the Open Air Theatre. He was awarded the Order of the Cedar. The same year, he prepared the drafts of a maritime warehouse that was not realised. In 1967, once more, he stayed in Lebanon. At the end, in 1981, he designed the draft of a tourist complex that once again was not developed."
from Dictionnaire de L'Architecture Au Liban Au XXeme Siecle, by Gerran Yacoub

The Fairground is listed as endangered in the Worlds Monument Fund:
In 1963 Oscar Niemeyer was commissioned to design an international fairground to serve as a showcase for Lebanon and signal the modern vision for the country’s development. The large oval-shaped International Fairground at Tripoli features Niemeyer’s signature minimalist, geometric forms within a vast, open-air pavilion. The fairground is based on modern urban planning ideals and an aesthetic similar to that of Brasilia, Niemeyer’s project for the capital of Brazil. Simple concrete forms such as a grand arch, a domed-theatre, and an elongated low-rise pavilion shape the landscape. The fairground was abandoned mid-construction at the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, and today sits in ruin, a symbol of the interrupted plans. The fairground, previously used by the military, suffers from years of neglect and deferred maintenance. Abandoned long ago, the site now faces development pressures and demolition of many of its existing structures, as plans form to convert the site into a theme park and tourist destination. Watch-listing in 2006 drew international attention to the site, but advocacy is still needed to prevent the destruction or further deterioration of the site.
The International Fairground at Tripoli documents a period of rapid economic growth in Lebanon and the government’s desire to establish itself as a progressive country welcoming of international visitors and collaboration. The fairground is considered the face of Lebanese modernism and is a reminder of the prosperous years before its civil war. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer as his first project outside South America after the creation of Brasilia, the International Fairground at Tripoli is a testament to the reach of modernism around the globe.
The fairground remains empty and unused, with little if any progress made towards its long-term preservation.
read more about the history of the project here:’s-permanent-international-fair-in-tripoli-id3105

Thursday 22 March 2012


exhibition views with two different kinds of cabinets!

Signals corner, vitrine with archival material in the front, Alejandro Otero's Shutter and Label, 1962 and Sergio Camargo's, Large Split Relief No.34/4/74, 1964-5 in the background

archival material from Signals in Vitrine

David Medalla's Cloud Canyon, foam machine, 1964

Signals exhibition display with Clark and Oiticica in Vitrines

Lygia Clark's Planes on Modulated Surface, 1957 and
Mira Schendel, Signal for Takis and Medalla and Keeler and Guy and Mario and Paulo and Sergio and All, 1966

Carlos Cruz Diez and Le Parc

Hélio Oiticica, Glass Bólide 05 'Homage to Mondrian', 1965

Lygia Clark, Bicho-Maquete (320), 1964

Jesus Rafael Soto, Cardenal, 1965

Indica archive material in vitrine

"Dear John, In the list of the Indication Show, I leave to your discretion whether to include nationalities or not. Personally I hate the idea of nationalities." David Medalla

Manzoni's line 18.82 from 1959 with Schoonhoven, Manzoni and Dadaimano in the background

Dadamaino, Volume of Displaced Modules, 1960

New Vision Centre corner

Anwar Shemza, Forms Emerging, 1967

archive material relating to New Vision Centre

Gallery One exhibition corner

archive material relating to Gallery One

Gustav Metzger photographed in the window of Gallery One

map of location of the galleries in London

and David Medala with the Filipino art mafia at the Tate's round table in the cafeteria

Gallery One, New Vision Centre, Signals, Indica
by Carmen Juliá

Gallery One, New Vision Centre, Signals and Indica played an important part in defining London as a centre for radical artistic expression. Cosmopolitan, experimental and interdisciplinary, they fostered an interest in artistic manifestations not bound by formal or geographical lines, and introduced audiences to art forms that had an emphasis on movement, participation and installation. Active during the ‘long 1960s’, these galleries soon became celebrated for showing art that the establishment and the mainstream art market found difficult to assimilate, and distanced themselves from the prevailing currents of Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. At a time when British artists and dealers were extraordinary fixated on the United States, they aimed to reflect a set of tendencies otherwise hardly represented in London’s emergent art scene, and brought to Britain early manifestations of Fluxus, Kinetic and Op art, thus connecting with an international avant-garde that had settled in different countries in Europe, Latin America and beyond.

The poet and art dealer Victor Musgrave ran Gallery One between 1953 and 1963. First located in Litchfield Street, just off Charing Cross Road, where his wife, the photographer Ida Kar, had a studio on the upper floor, the gallery soon moved to D’Arblay Street in Soho and later to Mayfair. Musgrave and Kar created a bohemian atmosphere, with artists living at the gallery. Musgrave was interested in exhibiting artists from outside the art establishment and his pioneering and eclectic programme included the first solo exhibitions of F.N. Souza in 1955 and Bridget Riley in 1962, bringing Enrico Baj’s nuclear paintings, Yves Klein’s monochromes and Henri Michaux’s mescalin drawings to London in 1957, and the first British survey of optical and kinetic art in 1958. In 1962 Musgrave, together with Daniel Spoerri, organised The Festival of Misfits which brought for the first time to England the activities of several members of the international avant-garde movement Fluxus. Musgrave recalled how ‘the show was created in the gallery over a period of about a week as the artists arrived from various parts of the world. It included a labyrinthine black-out room, a fun-making machine shop and the artist Ben Vautier living and sleeping in the window. Nothing was for sale, although small objects were given away for free.’[1]

In 1956, coinciding with the exhibition Modern Art in the United States organised at the Tate Gallery, three painters of the New Vision Group – Denis Bowen, Halima Nalecz and Frank Avray Wilson – founded New Vision Centre Gallery in Seymour Place, near Marble Arch. The gallery’s policy was to show young non-figurative artists with a special interest in Tachisme and art informel. Under the direction of Denis Bowen, New Vision Centre soon became a platform for artists exploring progressive ideas such as the exhibition of Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni in 1960 and the survey of the German-based Zero Group in 1964, which was organised together with the art critic Kenneth Coutts-Smith and in collaboration with McRoberts and Tunnard Gallery. Bowen staged around 250 shows over a ten year period, with many either first solo shows or first London exhibitions. At a time when solo exhibitions of foreign artists were almost inexistent, the gallery was one of the first to embrace internationalism in the arts, exhibiting artists from twenty-nine countries, with a particular emphasis on exhibiting Commonwealth artists including among others Aubrey Williams and Anwar Jalal Shemza.

In early 1964 Paul Keeler, the art critic Guy Brett, and the artists David Medalla, Gustav Metzger and Marcello Salvadori set up the Centre for Advanced Creative Study in the apartment that Medalla and Keeler were sharing in Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington. Its magazine, Signals Newsbulletin, first published in August of that year and edited by Medalla, was named after a series of tensile sculptures by the Greek artist Takis. Documenting exhibitions and art events as well as including poetry and essays on science and technology, it was an important forum for the discussion of experimental art, with a special focus on kinetic art. The group and the gallery became known as Signals London when they moved to a large four-storey showroom at the corner of Wigmore Street in central London. According to Medalla, Signals was ‘dedicated to the adventures of the modern spirit’[2] and, during the two year period that it was opened, it became an influential hub for experimental international artists. Signals set up a network of artistic exchange between different sites across Europe and Latin America, bringing to London artists including Takis, Sergio de Camargo, Lygia Clark, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesús Rafael Soto, Hélio Oiticica, Alejandro Otero, Mira Schendel and Li Yuan-chia.

Following on the legacy of Signals, Indica opened in 1966 with a group exhibition of kinetic art under the title of Indications one. Founded by art critic John Dunbar, his friend the pop star Pete Asher and author Barry Miles, Indica was at the centre of the 1960s counterculture scene in London. In November 1966, they organised Instruction Paintings and Objects the first solo exhibition of Yoko Ono outside the USA and Japan. The public was requested to participate in the making of the works, which were for sale at any time during the show but would never be finished, even after the sale. During the less than two years that the gallery existed, Indica presented exhibitions of work by, among others, Mark Boyle, Liliane Lijn, David Medalla, Takis, Tony Morgan, Jesús Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Lourdes Castro, Francois Morellet and Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel.

Gallery One, New Vision Centre, Signals, Indica is at Tate Britain until 15 April.

This display has been curated by Tate curator Carmen Juliá.

[1] Victor Musgrave, ‘The Unknown Art Movement’, Art and Artists, October 1972, p.13.
[2] David Medalla, Signals Newsbulletin, Vol.1 Nos.3 and 4, Oct – Nov 1964.