Marlborough Fine Art

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degenerate art

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London. Firm of art dealers founded in London in 1946 by two Austrian-born dealers who had emigrated to England because of the rise of Nazism: Frank Lloyd (1911–98) and Harry Fischer (1903–77) (who had no connection with the Fischer Galerie that organized the auction of confiscated degenerate art in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1939). They served together in the British army during the Second World War and decided to open a gallery when peace returned. The name was chosen because of its aristocratic associations. By the 1960s it was recognized, not without resentment from rivals, as the most important modern art dealer in London. Part of its prestige came from its spectacular shows of early modern art. Its annual summer exhibitions entitled ‘Aspects of Twentieth Century Art’ gained a legendary reputation for their museum-quality contents. The firm became agent for the estate of Jackson Pollock and vigorously promoted the work of Kurt Schwitters with a major exhibition in 1963 at a time when he was known only to Dada specialists. At one time it had a near monopoly of the best-known names in contemporary British art. A particular coup was the holding of simultaneous exhibitions of the new work of Henry Moore and Francis Bacon in 1963. Other artists contracted to it included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Oskar Kokoschka, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, and Victor Pasmore. It was also significant in developing the market in contemporary limited edition prints. Generally, it was most successful with artists who had already achieved some reputation with other dealers, although it gave R. B. Kitaj his first solo exhibition in 1963 and he remained with the firm for the rest of his career. In the 1960s there were branches on each side of Old Bond Street, the New London, on the east side, usually being devoted to more contemporary work.

In 1963 the firm expanded to New York. At its height, Marlborough also had branches in Rome, Zurich, Toronto, and Montreal. The handling of the estate of Mark Rothko led to public scandal and a well-publicized law suit which eventually resulted in a criminal conviction for Frank Lloyd. Harry Fischer left the firm and started his own business near St James's Square, exhibiting some of Marlborough's leading artists, most notably Henry Moore. He also continued the Marlborough tradition of spectacular mixed summer exhibitions. Many leading American artists also left the firm in the wake of the affair. During the 1970s and 1980s other London dealers, especially Leslie Waddington and Anthony d'Offay, became more significant as forces in the contemporary scene. Nonetheless Marlborough Fine Art continues to operate from spacious premises in Albermarle Street, adjacent to the original Old Bond Street site.

Further Reading

R Smith, ‘Frank Lloyd, Prominent Art Dealer Convicted in the '70s Rothko Scandal, dies at 86’, New York Times (8 April 1998)

Subjects: Art.

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