Contemporary art became highly fashionable in 1960s London, and was frequently shown as part of the emerging world of pop, rock, celebrity and style. Bridget Riley’s eye-confusing paintings were among those used as backdrops and accessories denoting this new cool. Riley is still alive and well, painting works much in the same vein. ‘Swinging London’ did not last so long, but another event which marked these years was the annual exhibition of ‘new Generation’ artists, held at the Whitechapel Gallery. These shows seemed to launch the careers of a number of artists, including Anthony Caro. It is remarkable to see how quickly the Foundation as buying artist ‘hot off the press’ at this time. Riley’s seminal piece was bought only a year after it was made, and it was the same for the new generation sculptors, who came from England and the Commonwealth. We teamed these pieces firstly with optical art from Portugal and France, but also with the latest in three-dimensional design, as represented by the Foundation’s in-house designer, Daciano da Costa. We liked the fact that by putting chairs, which are in daily use elsewhere, on top of a plinth, we draw attention to the high quality of design within the local built environment. English designers were highly involved in the formative years of the Foundation, and their presence is felt not only in the building, but also in the collections.
Penelope Curtis, curator