Research about the Open Air Exhibition of Paintings in 1948 / by Theresa Kneppers

London Met Archives Borough Group Research 1.jpeg

In 1948, the Victoria Embankment Gardens where the site of an “Open Air Exhibition of Paintings”. The exhibition was organised by the London County Council. 

The intent was to allow student and amateur painters to exhibit and sell their paintings. This was to help student painters find work after finishing their education. Similar exhibitions in New York inspired the exhibition. 

The exhibition was open for all and there was no selection of works or artists. It was free to exhibit and artists could show up at a day-to-day basis and exhibit their works. Spots could not be reserved in advance, and where instead given out on a first come, first serve basis. Certain art schools in London where approached to encourage their students to exhibit their works at the exhibition. 

The council provided screens to exhibit the works on, but nothing else was provided. There was a shelter nearby where artists could protect their works from the weather in case of rain. Therefore artists where encouraged to stay with their art to protect it as well as to use this opportunity to sell their works. 

The council put focus on informality and wanted to have a direct link between the public and the artists. In order to encourage the public to go and to serve the purpose of the exhibition, entry was free of charge. They wanted to encourage a meeting between artists and the public in order to enable sales directly from artists to customer as well as establish possible commissions of work and other future working relationships.

As the council put it, their approach was “experimental” in the sense that any artist could show up and exhibits their works – there was no selection and therefore works that might be shocking or offensive to the public could be exhibited as well. Control over who exhibited and what was exhibited was limited and therefore lists over who exhibited and what they exhibited weren’t produced. 

From an article in the South London Press, we know that the Borough Group took part in the exhibition, but exactly who exhibited and what they exhibited is difficult to say. 

London Metropolitan Archives: 
Reference: LCC/CL/PK/2/98
Victoria Embankment Gardens Open Air Exhibition of Paintings