Sixty-three years ago, in April 1934, a London art dealer named Sydney Burney mounted an unusual and rather brilliant exhibition in aid of the Greater London Fund for the Blind. The Thirty Four Gallery, as the exhibition came to be known, invited a selection of leading and lesser-known artists to make miniature works for display in a model gallery of modern art.
The idea was for a sort of doll's house gallery: a scaled-down version of the real thing with proper pictures painted by the likes of Paul Nash, Ivon Hitchens, Augustus John and Ben Nicholson as well as sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The result was a mini-collection of the best of British art between the wars.
Burney was clearly an inventive man and, as it turned out, he was also rather a shrewd one. In his catalogue note, he described the sculptures and paintings as gifts from the artists; gifts presumably to the Fund for the Blind, but when the exhibition closed, most of the work was packed away into a suitcase and stayed in Burney's hands. The details aren't clear; perhaps Burney acquired them in return for a donation to the charity, perhaps the artists gave them to him in recogniton of his efforts, but either way 25 of the original 34 stayed together and, courtesy of Burney's heirs, they are now on show again, this time at Pallant House in Chichester.
A photograph from the April 1934 edition of the Illustrated London News has allowed the model modern art gallery to be recreated in all its Lilliputian splendour. It promises to be one of the summer's more peculiar and enjoyable exhibitions
EYE ON THE NEW
After several summers of British abstract art, Flowers East now turn their attention to figuration. Part 1: Painting, The Human Figure boasts luminaries like Kitaj, Kossoff, Aitchison and Auerbach, alongside a host of younger talents.
199-205 Richmond Road, London E8 (0181-985 3333) to 21 Sept