The Italian Chapter of The Society for the History Of Collecting

Invites you to its Online Lecture

The London Gallery, 1938-1950: Collecting and Patronage of Surrealist Art in Britain

Caterina Caputo (University of Florence)

8 October 6.30pm (BST), 7.30pm (CEST) 1.30pm (EST)

The interior of the London Gallery during the exhibition “F.E. McWilliam”, March 1939. Courtesy Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (920094)

The aim of this talk is to provide an analytical overview of collecting practices and patronage of Surrealist art in Britain from 1938 to 1950, within the context of Surrealists’ strategies and methodologies for disseminating the aesthetics and ideologies of the movement internationally in the interwar and post-war periods. Specifically, the seminar focuses on networks that fostered and sustained Surrealism around the London Gallery, the Surrealist gallery active in England since the end of the 1930s managed by two Surrealist artists who were also collectors: the Belgian E.L.T. Mesens and his British colleague Roland Penrose. The London Gallery inaugurated in 1938, two years after the significant International Surrealist Exhibition held at the New Burlington Galleries in London, a show followed by the foundation of the Surrealist British group. The research analyses the gallery’s cultural and commercial strategies and sheds new light on British Surrealism starting from the period when the group was created in 1936, thanks to the programmatic internationalization of the movement promoted by the French leader André Breton, until 1950, when the London Gallery closed for good. By analysing unpublished archival documents and photographs, the study reveals how in the unstable historical context of the 1930s and 1940s, the London Gallery not only deeply helped to promote Surrealism’s ideology in Britain, but also supported its elitist art market, patronage and collecting practices, involving shared political ideologies and a cultural avant-gardist vision.

Caterina Caputo received her Ph.D. in History of Art from the Universities of Florence. Her research interests and publications lie at the intersection of collecting, the art market, cultural dissemination, and transnational exchanges related to Surrealism, Avant-gardes, and Modernity. She turned her Ph.D. dissertation into the book Collezionismo e mercato. La London Gallery e la diffusione dell’arte surrealista, 1938-1950 (Florence: Pontecorboli, 2018), and published her research topics in academic journals, including Ricerche di storia dell’arte (2017), Getty Research Journal (2020), Piano b (2020), L’Uomo Nero (2021), Mélusine (forthcoming 2021). Moreover, she contributed to the Art Market Dictionary (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021). Caterina has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Frick Art Reference Library (2018), as well as at the Center for Italian Modern Art in New York (2019). Recently, she has got the Jacqueline Delcourt–Nonkels Prize (Brussels, 2021) for her research on E.L.T. Mesens and Surrealism. Since 2019 she has been an External Teaching Assistant for the course in History of Contemporary Art and Photography at the University of Florence, and member of the Research-Lab “Gradiva – Centro di studi e ricerche sul surrealismo e sul modernismo.” At the moment Caterina is writing the books: E.L.T. Mesens e il Surrealismo in Italia negli anni Cinquanta e Sessanta (forthcoming); and The London Gallery, 1938-1940: Collecting, Patronage, and the Market for Surrealist Art in Britain (forthcoming



The West Coast Chapter is offering a talk on The Global Museum at San Francisco State University: Using Collections to Create a Student-Focused Museum from the Ground Up by Prof. Edward M. Luby, Professor and Director of the Museum Studies Program Interim  Director and Chief Curator of the Global Museum

Drawing on the history of university museums, this talk outlines how the collections at a small, new campus museum at San Francisco State University, called the Global Museum, have been reframed to create a student-focused museum, one in which curriculum, professional training, and a critical examination of collecting and acquisition practices are placed at the center of museum operations. After reviewing the mission of the Global Museum and its ties to the Museum Studies Program, a brief review of collections and university museums is presented, followed by a snapshot of the university museum sector in the USA today. A detailed view of the development of the Global Museum, including the challenges involved in understand ing and caring for its collections, is then presented.

THURSDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 2021 6pm (GMT), 1pm (EST)

Object-Oriented Manias and the Barricaded Black Room by Dr. Rebecca Falkoff, Affiliated Scholar. Brown University

In early nineteenth century France, collections spilled forth from curiosity cabinets, grand galleries, personal libraries, and literary texts and into asylums. The annals of medicine were increasingly cluttered with object-oriented manias including oniomania, kleptomania, collectomania, and bibliomania. Rebecca Falkoff will chart this transition through a discussion of Antoine-Marie-Henri Boulard, a legendary bibliomaniac whose enormous collection of some 600,000 tottering tomes inspired terror in the writer Charles Nodier. A case history of Boulard published by the physician Jean Baptiste Félix Descuret draws on Nodier’s account, embellishing it with a new detail: a barricaded back room full of obscene books. Taking Descuret’s invention of this secret space as a point of departure, Falkoff will show how object-oriented manias materialize the drama of a faltering will and anticipate contemporary understandings of obsessive compulsive and impulse control disorders.

Members will receive a flyer with the link to the talk at least two days before the event.

Nonmembers should register by emailing:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *