Lab 5 Bertram

25 May

The Art of Collecting opens at the Mall galleries in London on 27 June. The exhibition celebrates the rich and diverse collections of a group of art and artist trust and foundations – Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust, Jerwood Foundation, Fleming Collection and Ingram Collection. Personally the trust of most importance to me is the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust which I have chaired since 2005. The Trust was established in 1987 by the St Andrews/St Ives artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004). It aims to promote and broaden the understanding and reputation of her work as one of Britain’s most significant 20th century artists through exhibitions and publications. Additionally, the Trust actively supports individuals to fulfil their potential in the visual arts by providing financial support in education and funding artists’ residencies.

I have been particularly closely involved with the Trust and directing its future since 2011 when plans were underway to celebrate for the artist’s centenary in 2012. There were 10 exhibitions in 15 venues throughout the UK. In the following year a decision was taken to sell the Trust’s home based outside St Andrews, Fife (the house that the artist had inherited in 1960) and move to Edinburgh. Unsuspecting the Trust carried through with the decision and the house sold remarkably quickly. The challenge then arose in finding and signing up to a suitable new home, which, as it turned out, took three further years to accomplish. In the meantime, without staff I managed the day to day affairs and business of the Trust on my own. This became so demanding that I was unable to continue with Bertram Arts.

In July 2017 the Trust opened a new centre in Edinburgh and recruited staff. As it approaches the end of the first year in its new home I am able once again to pursue my own interests and take Bertram Arts in a new direction. A redesigned web site is being constructed and will launch in the coming months with a new range of art and artists. I will make further announcements as that day draws nearer.

It continues to be a privilege to work with Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s art and be the face of her Trust. I first started to represent her when director of the Scottish Gallery when they opened premises in London in 1989. When I moved on to co-found Art First on London’s Cork Street in 1994 she was one of the first artists’ to join the gallery, and the relationship with Art First continued long after I left the gallery in the summer of 2004. For information about the Trust and what it does visit

06 Sep

Surreal Encounters at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Edinburgh

Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous brought together some of the finest Surrealist works of art from four legendary collections, those of Roland Penrose, Edward James, Gabrielle Keiller and Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch. The ways that Surrealist art had been collected display many of the idiosyncratic passions of Surrealism itself. The exhibition examined the different impulses behind these four extraordinary collections presenting a fuller and richer picture of the Surrealist movement as a whole.

This was a most engaging and thought provoking exhibition. There is an awful lot to take in. For someone who is not a natural follower of surrealism I found it fascinating to see the how the support and influence of Penrose and James was so critical in maintaining the movement’s momentum in the 1930s. Penrose in particular was actively promoting their work in London. Each collector in their own way has contributed to sustaining this most individual of art movements.

14 Apr

The Glasgow Boys – a Spirit of Rebellion at St Andrews Museum

While in St Andrews as part of my work with the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust I dropped into St Andrew Museum and found a wonderful collection of works by the Glasgow Boys selected by Kirkcaldy Art Gallery.  It has been too long since I had seen their work and a revisit long overdue.

Linked by friendship and a shared desire to challenge the artistic traditions of late 19th century Scotland, the Glasgow Boys became one of the most significant groups of painters working in Britain at that time. A loose association of around 20 artists, many of them went on to enjoy critical acclaim and commercial success, both at home and abroad.

The exhibition looked at the evolving style of the Glasgow Boys and their impact on the art world. It featured works by leading members of the group and many others associated with it, including Arthur Melville, John Lavery, E A Hornel, George Henry, James Guthrie, Joseph Crawhall, E A Walton, Alexander Roche and Thomas Corsan Morton.

Perfectly scaled in size, this was a gem of an exhibition. These are just a few examples:


E A Hornel 'Seashore Roses'
John Lavery 'My House in Morocco'
George Henry 'Lady with Goldfish'
W Y Macgregor 'Summer Landscape'
02 Oct

Delighted to help sponsor Amazing Space, the event that celebrates 45 years of the Dove Studios in Butleigh. The Dove has been an arts and crafts centre committed to excellence in the arts and to art education in the wider community since its inception in 1970. The exhibition includes specially commissioned work by local artists - Bronwen Bradshaw, Pennie Elfick, Michael Fairfax and Fiona Hingston – who have made site specific installations inspired by the Dove; emerging artist Jenny Newbury has produced a specially commissioned work inspired by the archive; and there is a fine display of Mini Prints and Books prints by the Dove students as well as a sculpture garden. Thanks to a well preserved and documented archive, an illustrated book highlighting the history of The Dove has been published. The exhibition runs throughout Somerset Art Weeks, from 3rd to until 18th October. It’s Venue 81 and can be found on Barton Road, Butleigh, Somerset BA6 8TL. There is a considerable amount to see!

09 Sep

I can't believe that the summer is almost over. Another year shooting by! I have been travelling up and down the country on behalf of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust (more on that later) and been able to take in some exhibitions here and there. My highlight was the most surprising, coming on a day off driving around Dartmoor. Confluence consisted of the work of five artists - Susan Derges, Peter Randall-Page, Amy Shelton, Marcus Vergette and Sally Vergette -  at Green Hill Arts in Moretonhampstead. The exhibition grew out of a series of conversations between the artists and the gallery. All five live locally and are powerful advocates for the natural world; their friendships and deep concerns informing their practice. It was a finely curated exhibition - plenty to see but not overdone -  and of the highest quality art which would not have looked out of place in any international setting. Susan Derges's river photograms were displayed adjacent to Sally Vergette's textiles, wool rugs that she makes on a Navajo loom using wool from her own flock. Peter Randall-Page made drawings and prints of the Sap River, 'letting wet pigment flow under gravity across the paper in a quasi controlled manner'. Amy Shelton created a series of light boxes comprising pressed flowers while a central focus in the gallery was Marcus Vergette's table with 28 bronze cast bells, each with a different pitch.

It is a wonder what one can sometimes find in the more remote outposts of the gallery world. Much of it for sale too!

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  • Geoffrey Bertram
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