Now more than a decade since Wedel Art began building The Arts Club’s art collection, both in London and Dubai, the dialogues between the diverse artworks displayed grow ever more pressing and meaningful. Drawn from around the world and spanning several decades – from George Condo to Amoako Boafo, Albert Oehlen to Shara Hughes, Tomas Saraceno to Lakwena Maciver – the collection demonstrates cutting-edge contemporary practices, shifting ideas between generations, as well as the enduring concerns in art and humanity that transcend the ages in our rapidly changing world.
There is no over-riding theme dominating the collection, but shifts in key art historical motifs are everywhere evident. For centuries clubs have hung portraits of their notable members in their rooms. In today’s collection, George Condo demonstrates a contemporary take on portraiture, evoking the gnarled, precarious mental states of each imagined sitter. John Stezaker and Markus Schinwald likewise express their own conceptual interpretations of portraiture, and Amoako Boafo’s bold portrait evokes the power and politics of representation, tenderly inviting reflection on and celebrating Black subjectivity.
One of the 20th century’s great innovations in art, abstraction, is given fresh relevance in the works of artists such as German master Albert Oehlen and American Stephen Prina. New ideas in landscape, imagined, psychological and seen differently through today’s climate anxious times, are found in works by artists such as painter Shara Hughes and multimedia artist Tomas Saraceno, and even classical sculpture is radically updated by the roughly hewn, bulging curves in Rebecca Warren’s female figure in bronze.
All of which harkens back, in spirit, to the late 19th century – when the club was founded and frequented by such catalysts for cultural change as Charles Dickens, James Whistler and Auguste Rodin, radicals of their own generation who met here to discuss ideas. These early trailblazers might be surprised by many of the 21st century’s artistic innovations, but we like to think the new energy of the club is something of which they would approve.