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Institute of Contemporary Arts
Established 1947
Location Main (public) entrance on The Mall, London SW1, England is shown above. Offices and postal address are situated at 12 Carlton House Terrace.
Director Ekow Eshun
Public transit access Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus

The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) is an artistic and cultural centre on The Mall in London, just off Trafalgar Square. It is located within Nash House, part of Carlton House Terrace, near the Duke of York Steps and Admiralty Arch. It contains galleries, a theatre, two cinemas, a bookshop and a bar.



The ICA was founded by Peter Watson, Herbert Read, Geoffrey Grigson, E.L.T. Mesens, and Roland Penrose in 1946. The ICA's founders intended to establish a space where artists, writers and scientists could debate ideas outside of the traditional confines of the Royal Academy. The first exhibitions were held in rented premises organised by Penrose, '40 Years of Modern Art' was followed by '40,000 Years of Modern Art' reflecting his interest in primitivism.

In the late 1940s the ICA met in the basement of the Academy of Cinema, 165 Oxford Street. The Academy Cinema building included the Pavilion, a restaurant, and the Marquee ballroom in the basement, the building was owned by George Hoellering the film, jazz and big band promoter [1].

In 1950 the ICA's first regular premises was established at 17-18 Dover Street, the former residence of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. The interior design was by Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, with the collaboration of Eduardo Paolozzi, Nigel Henderson, Neil Morris and Terence Conran.

In its early years, the Institute organised exhibitions of modern art including Picasso and Jackson Pollock, it also launched Pop art, Op art, and British Brutalist art and architecture. The Independent Group met at the ICA in 1952–1962/63 and organised several exhibitions, including This Is Tomorrow. The critic Reyner Banham acted as assistant Director during the early 1950's, followed by Lawrence Alloway during the mid to later 1950s.

Institute of Contemporary Arts

With the support of the Arts Council, the ICA moved to its current site in 1968. For a period during the 1970s the Institute was known for its often anarchic programme and administration. Norman Rosenthal was director of exhibitions at this time, and he was once assaulted by a group of people who were living in the upper floors of the building at the time. A bloodstain on the wall of the administrative offices is preserved under glass, with a note reading "this is Normans's blood". Rosenthal claims the group which assaulted him included the actor Keith Allen [1] .

Bill McAllister was ICA Director from 1977-1990, when the Institute developed a system of separate departments specialising in visual art; cinema; and theatre, music and performance art. A fourth department was devoted to talks and lectures. Press Officer Sandy Broughton was responsible for publicising the ICA in her tenure from 1978 to 1986, and she is credited with raising the profile of the Institute and bringing "a much-needed touch of professionalism to the ICA"[2] Iwona Blazwick was Director of Exhibitions from 1986 to 1993.

Mik Flood took over as director of the ICA in 1990 after McAllister's resignation.

Flood announced the Institute would have to leave its Mall location and move to a larger site, a plan which ultimately came to nothing [3]. He also oversaw a sponsorship scheme whereby the electrical goods company Toshiba paid to have their logo included on every piece of ICA publicity for three years, and in effect changed the name of the ICA to ICA/Toshiba. [4]. He was replaced as Director in 1998 by Philip Dodd.

In 2002 then ICA Chairman Ivan Massow criticised what he described as 'concept art' leading to his resignation.

The ICA appointed Ekow Eshun Artistic Director in 2005 following the departure of Philip Dodd.

The annual Beck's Futures prize was exhibited and hosted at the ICA until 2005. It also regularly hosts part of the London film festival.

It has hosted the onedotzero digital film festival for over a decade (from 1996).

The world's first Cybercafe was held in the theatre in 1994.

The ICA appointed Mark Sladen as Director of Exhibitions in 2007 to replace Jens Hoffmann who was appointed Director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2006.

The performance-arts group Throbbing Gristle was formed at the ICA in 1976, evolving from COUM Transmissions.

See also

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′24″N 0°07′50″W / 51.50667°N 0.13056°W / 51.50667; -0.13056




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