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American-British Art Center

  • Name:
    American-British Art Center
  • Kind of Organisation:
    Art Center
  • Introduction:

    The émigré gallerist Ala Story left London for New York around 1940, where she co-founded the American-British Art Center, which introduced British and US artists to the public.

    Word Count: 27

  • Content:

    The émigré gallerist Ala Story (1907–1972) left London for New York around 1940, where she co-founded the American-British Art Center in New York. Organised as a gallery and clubhouse, the centre’s function was to introduce British and US artists to the public and to counteract the wartime isolation of the British art scene. An article on the opening of the centre at 44 West 56th Street in New York states: “Although the primary purpose of the American British Art Center is to help keep England’s art and artists alive while the rain of bombs continues over their homeland, works by artists of Canada and the United States will compose almost half of all the exhibitions to be shown.” (Anonymous 1941a) Exhibitions were also organised outside New York, for example in Bangor/Maine, where Photographs of Bombed London by Cecil Beaton was exhibited in 1941. A newspaper review states: “Since the air raids and war conditions in England have hit artists by not allowing any chance of showing their work nor to come in touch with the public in any way, the American British Art Center is continuing the work which so many galleries in London had to terminate. The Art Center is a non-profit organization and all net proceeds of all operations of the organization are being used to help artists in England who are in need of assistance.” (Anonymous 1941b) These and other exhibitions show that Ala Story remained in close contact with art institutions, artists and photographers even after her departure from London.

    Ala Story was born Emilie Anna Maria Heyszl von Heyszenau in Vienna. She initially studied art at the Academy, but left in her twenties and moved to London, where she took up a position at the Beaux Arts Gallery. She subsequently worked in galleries such as the Redfern Gallery, Lucy Wertheim Gallery, Storran Gallery, often in a managerial position. Story opened the Stafford Gallery in St James’s, out of which she developed the British Arts Centre after 1939, working to keep works by contemporary artists visible and to facilitate acquisitions after war broke out. The British Art Centre was the first step towards her later work as the founder of the American British Art Center in New York, where she worked as a transcontinental mediator of art, consistently advocating for contemporary art in her places of exile and as a disseminator of British and European art. It was located on West 56th Street in the gallery district, where other galleries supporting exile art were located as the Norlyst Gallery, Weyhe Gallery as well as the Julien Levy Gallery.

    From 1952 to 1957, Ala Story was director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. There she curated exhibitions such as Impressionism and Its influence in American Art (1954) and Paintings by Oskar Kokoschka (1954), exhibitions that focused on artistic exchange between Europe and the USA and made European artists better known.

    Ala Story was not only a supporter of contemporary British and European art. In addition, she was socio-politically engaged, for example in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Anonymous 1972). And Story was part of the queer scenes in London, New York and Santa Barbara and supported other emigrants of her queer networks, such as Erica Anderson (née Erika Paula Kellner, 1914–1976). Story arranged temporary work in galleries for Erica Anderson, a photographer who had fled to London; they both arrived in New York in the same year, 1940, and Anderson took a flat above Story’s American British Art Center (Brunner 2019, 151). Anderson, who made a career as a cinematographer, and Story remained friends throughout their lives and were also connected professionally. Story’s life partner, filmmaker Margaret Mallory, appointed Anderson as chief cinematographer of her production company, Falcon Films. In 1950, Erica Anderson made a film about the US painter “Grandma Moses”, whom Story supported through exhibitions at the American British Art Center and whose work she collected. Another émigré photographer who was part of the queer network in New York and befriended with Erica Anderson, is Ruth Bernhard. Nevertheless, the queer scene and émigrés networks in New York are still few studied and need more scientific processing.

    Word Count: 689

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    44 West 56th Street, Diamond District, New York City.

  • Signature Image:
    Article on the opening of the American British Art Center, 44 West 56th Street in New York in The Herald Statesman, 28 January 1941, p. 8 (Photo: Private Archive).
  • Media:
    Article on “Art Exhibit At Bar Harbor. Recent Photographs of Bombed London By Cecil Beaton” in The Bangor Daily News, 11 August 1941, p. 10 (Photo: Private Archive). The article describes the activities of the American British Art Center founded by Ala Story for the benefit of the London art scene, which was isolated and shaken by the war.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. “British Art.” The Herald Statesman, 28 January 1941a, p. 8.

    Anonymous. “Art Exhibit At Bar Harbor. Recent Photographs of Bombed London By Cecil Beaton.” The Bangor Daily News, 11 August 1941b, p. 10.

    Anonymous. “Mrs. Ala Story, Was Director of Museum of Art.” The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Mass.), 7 April 1972, p. 13.

    Breton, Harriette Von. “Margaret Mallory and Ala Story Collections.” Artform International, March 1966, p. 18, www.artforum.com/print/reviews/196603/margaret-mallory-and-ala-story-collections-75317. Accessed 21 February 2021.

    Brunner, Andreas. “Erica Anderson (1914–1976). Lesbische Netzwerke im Exil.” Lambda Nachrichten, vol. 39, no. 172, 2017, pp. 46–48, https://lambdanachrichten.at/ln175.pdf. Accessed 8 March 2021.

    Brunner, Andreas. “Die queeren Netzwerke der Erica Anderson.” Doing Gender in Exile. Geschlechterverhältnisse, Konstruktionen und Netzwerke in Bewegung, edited by Irene Messinger and Katharina Prager, Westfälisches Dampfboot, 2019, pp. 142–155.

    Gordon, Jan. “Art and Artists.” The Observer, 19 November 1939, p. 8.

    Hedley, Gill. “Three female gallerists who changed the course of British art.” 29 September 2016, Royal Academy of Arts, www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/movers-and-shakers-female-gallerists-british-art. Accessed 27 January 2021.

    Niederacher, Sonja. “Dossier zu Egon Schiele Deuring-Schlösschen, 1912, Leopold Museum Privatstiftung LM Inv. Nr. 2373.” 31 December 2014, docplayer, http://docplayer.org/66704325-Dossier-egon-schiele-deuring-schloesschen-1912.html. Accessed 21 February 2021.

    Private Wire. “Our London Correspondence.” The Manchester Guardian, 30 September 1939, p. 8.

    Story, Ala. Impressionism and its influence in American Art, exh. cat. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 1954.

    Story, Ala. Paintings by Oskar Kokoschka, exh. cat. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 1954.

    Story, Ala. The First West Coast Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), exh. cat. Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1964.

    Story, Ala. Paul Klee. Oils, Watercolors, Gouaches, Drawings, Prints from the James Gilvarry Collection, exh. cat. Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1967.

    Story, Ala. First Comprehensive Retrospective Exhibition in the West of Oils, Gouaches. Pastels, Drawings and Graphic Works by Max Weber (1881–1961), exh. cat. Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1968.

    Story, Ala. Constructive Tendencies, exh. cat. Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1970.

    Story, Ala. Trends in Twentieth Century Art, exh. cat. Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1970.

    Taylor, Brandon. Art for the Nation: Exhibitions and the London Public 1747–2001. Manchester University Press, 1999.

    The Ala Story Collection of Art in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, exh. cat. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 1971.

    Word Count: 358

  • Archives and Sources:

    Archives of American Art, Washington D.C., Ala Story papers (1941–1970).

    Word Count: 10

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Date of Founding:
    1941
  • Participants (selection):

    Ala Story.

  • Metropolis:
    New York
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "American-British Art Center." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2948/object/5145-11267587, last modified: 26-04-2021.
  • Ruth Bernhard
    Photographer

    Ruth Bernhard was a German émigré photographer who lived in New York from the 1920s to the 1940s. Beside her series on female nudes, her place in the photography network, as well as in the New York queer scene, is unknown and understudied.

    Word Count: 43

    Lotte Jacobi, Ruth Bernhard, 1945, New York (© 2021. University of New Hampshire).
    Scrapbook and published work by Ruth Bernhard (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Lifesavers by Ruth Bernhard, published in Advertisment Arts, January 1931 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Still Life of dolls for Macy’s by Ruth Bernhard, published in Graphic Arts, 1931 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Ruth Bernhard, Eighth Street Movie Theater, Frederick Kiesler-Architect, New York, 1946 (Diversity Corner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0).Exhibition flyer for Ruth Bernhard Photographs, PM Gallery, 1938 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Description of Ruth Bernhard Photographs exhibition, by Kurt Safranski, PM Gallery, 1938 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).
    New York
    Ala Story
    GalleristCuratorArt CollectorMuseums Director

    Originally from Vienna, Ala Story worked for galleries such as Redfern and Storran, opened the Stafford Gallery in 1938 and developed it into the British Art Centre.

    Word Count: 26

    William Dole, Ala’s Story, 1971, collage, 34.9 x 30.8 cm, Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA, Gift of Margaret P. Mallory, Object number 1991.154.9, © artist or artist’s estate). The collage is dedicated to the life and work of Ala Story in Vienna, London, New York and Santa Barbara and is a visual transcultural narrative.
    A 1937 Storran Gallery receipt for works by Modigliani, Hitchens and Picasso. Ala Story and Eardley Knollys as representatives of Storran Gallery are mentioned under the gallery’s address (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Storran_Gallery_1937.jpg).Article mentioning the “newly opened Stafford Gallery”, one of the galleries Ala Story worked at or founded in London. The Manchester Guardian, 1 November 1938, p. 14 (Photo: Private Archive).Article on the foundation of the British Art Centre at the Stafford Gallery in The Manchester Guardian, 30 September 1939, p. 8 (Photo: Private Archive).Article on the first exhibition of the “self-help club” British Art Centre at Stafford Gallery in The Observer, 19 November 1939, p. 8 (Photo: Private Archive). It is emphasised that Ala Story selected fresh works from artists’ studios.Advertisement for the This War as I See It exhibition at the Stafford Gallery (British Art Centre), The Observer, 14 April 1940, p. 17 (Photo: Private Archive).Ala Story obituary in The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Mass., 7 April 1972, p. 13 (Photo: Private Archive).
    London
    Norlyst Gallery
    GalleryArt Gallery

    Founded in 1943 by the American painter and art collector Elenore Lust, the Norlyst Gallery represented a cross section of contemporary painting, photography and other media focusing on surrealist and abstract expressionist styles and promoting women artists and photographers.

    Word Count: 38

    Flyer for the Captured Light exhibition (© The Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, courtesy of The Center for Creative Photography, Josef Breitenbach Archive, AG90:29).
    Announcement for the Captured Light exhibition (© The Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, courtesy The Center for Creative Photography, Josef Breitenbach Archive, AG90:29).Flyer for Lotte Jacobi’s exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery, 1948 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).Willi Wolfradt. "Lichtbild-Schöpfungen." Aufbau, 15 October 1948, p. 19.
    New York
    Weyhe Gallery
    Art Gallery

    Opened in 1919 by the German-born art dealer Erhard Weyhe opened a bookstore and gallery space specialised in contemporary European artists and was the first to specialise in prints.

    Word Count: 28

    Address of Weyhe Gallery (Photo: Helene Roth).
    "Ylla." The New Yorker, 14 February 1942, pp.11f.
    New York
    Julien Levy Gallery
    Art Gallery

    The Julien Levy Gallery was founded by the art dealer Julien Levy (1906–1981) in 1931, and was situated in the New York gallery district around 57th Street, where the Weyhe and Norlyst Gallery were also located.

    Word Count: 34

    T. Lux Feininger, The Painter Muriel Streeter and Julien Levy, 1940, New York (© The Estate of T. Lux Feininger, Repro: www.Kunst-Archive.net).
    Exhibition flyer Paintings of Ships by T. Lux Feininger at the Julien Levy Gallery from May, 7 until December, 31 1937 (© T. Lux Feininger Estate).Exhibition flyer by Theodore Lux Feininger at the Julien Levy Gallery from January, 21 until January, 31 1947 (© T. Lux Feininger Estate).Announcement of the exhibition Modern European Photography at the Julien Levy Gallery (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 21 February 1932, p. 52).
    New York