Andrew Lambirth

Look back with pleasure

The Bloomberg Space on the edge of Finsbury Square is a fine ground-floor gallery with rocketing ceilings that exudes wealth and sophistication. It’s a rare and pleasantly civilised experience to walk in off the street and not only be welcomed but also handed a complimentary catalogue of the exhibition. The catalogue is a modest illustrated pamphlet containing ample information about both artists and exhibits — sufficient even for the knowledgeable spectator. Here are none of the door-stopper tomes beloved of academic curators, just a neat, stapled brochure, and a handlist of the exhibits if you require more specific information. The surroundings are spacious and elegant. Museums should be like this. Since they aren’t, perhaps the burden of more exhibitions should be shouldered by the likes of Bloomberg — eminently capable City firms with a strong interest in the arts who have the space to mount temporary displays.

The current Bloomberg loan exhibition is focused on the year 1979, apparently in honour of the first British Art Show, which was curated in that year by the redoubtable critic William Packer. (The sixth British Art Show opens this autumn in Gateshead and tours the country. It’s a ‘state-of-the-art’ survey of varying interest, largely dependent on the intelligence of the selectors. Few have had the humane eclecticism of Packer.) Three Bloomberg curators (Stephen Hepworth, Graham Gussin and Sacha Craddock) have each selected five artists who showed either in that first British Art Show or in the Hayward Annual (that’s another group show which would bear reviving) of the same year. To these a single mutually agreed addition was made, constituting a total of 16 exhibiting artists, all now showing at least one work made in the late 70s.

A couple of white sculptures by Carole Hodgson, which apparently refer to the landscape of west Wales, are the first objects you encounter.

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