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Philanthropists gift outstanding modern and contemporary collection to Amgueddfa Cymru

The Contemporary Art Society is delighted to announce one of the most important philanthropic donations in its 100-year history, which will benefit public collections across the UK for generations to come.


Well-known art collectors Eric and Jean Cass have gifted over 300 important modern and contemporary artworks from their personal collection to the Contemporary Art Society for allocation to public institutions and to support contemporary art in the UK. The gift totals over £4 million. Amassed over almost 40 years and previously housed in the interiors and gardens of Bleep, Eric and Jean Cass’s spectacular modernist Surrey home, theirs is one of the most unique and significant collections of modern and contemporary art in the country.

In 2012, the Contemporary Art Society invited seven UK-based museums to research Eric and Jean Cass’s donation and to pitch to receive clusters of works that complement or enliven their current collections. The museums proposed works by artists including Karel Appel, Michael Craig-Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Victor Pasmore, Pablo Picasso and Niki de Saint-Phalle. Any works not appropriate for gifting to these primary museums will be sold to benefit the Contemporary Art Society’s Acquisitions scheme or will be gifted to other public collections in the UK.

The successful museums are Gallery of Modern Art (Glasgow), Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Art Gallery, Amgueddfa Cymru (Cardiff), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh), The Royal Pavilion and Museums (Brighton) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery. The museums will exhibit the donated works in their public collections and special exhibitions from 2012 and will plan exciting programmes of associated events and talks to emphasise the magnitude of Eric and Jean Cass’s generosity.

Eric and Jean Cass said:

“When the time came for us to leave Bleep and our 365-strong collection of modern and contemporary art, we had to find a home that would love the pieces as much as we did. The Contemporary Art Society, under its Director Paul Hobson, provided the answer. It has been a big job, carried out with the same spirit that involved us in collecting in the first place.”

Paul Hobson, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, said:

“This tremendously generous gift from Eric and Jean Cass is of incalculable cultural and financial value to institutions and audiences across the UK and is an example of selfless philanthropy. Eric and Jean have built their collection with great passion, care and intelligence, always knowing that the works would in time enter public collections where the pleasure they have had privately would be shared with the widest audience nationally, now and in the future. Philanthropists who wish to benefit museums outside of London are rare and regional museums struggle to compete with the prestige of London-based institutions who tend to get the pick of the crop. It is typical of this enlightened couple that they would aspire to benefit audiences no matter where they live, recognising that artists and audiences seed their imaginations through experiencing these important local collections.”

This is another initiative that meets the Contemporary Art Society’s mission to develop public collections of contemporary art across the UK and that highlights the importance of philanthropy in the arts in the UK. For over one hundred years, the charity has gifted over 8,000 works to museums and galleries across the country, championing the development of emerging artists and ensuring that some of the best of contemporary art is available to as wide an audience as possible.

For information on Eric and Jean Cass Gift 2012 contact:

Jenny Prytherch, Communications Manager

T. +44 (0)20 7017 8412

Notes to Editors:

1. Eric and Jean Cass:

Eric and Jean Cass have dedicated over 35 years of their lives to supporting artists. During this time they have built up a spectacular and very personal collection of over 300 sculptures, ceramics, drawings, prints and paintings with work by Karel Appel, Lynn Chadwick, Michael Craig-Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Allen Jones, Henry Moore, John Piper, Joan Miro and many others. Previous to the donation, the entire collection was housed in the interiors and gardens of ‘Bleep’, Eric and Jean Cass’s spectacular modernist home in Surrey named after the high pitched bleeping sound emitted from pocket paging receivers, a product that formed part of Eric business, Cass Electronics. Each piece in their collection has been purchased because it gives the owners immense enjoyment as a standalone work of art. Eric and Jean Cass are ardent supporters of philanthropy in the arts. They hope that their collection benefits audiences all over the UK for years to come.

2. Contemporary Art Society:

Founded in 1910, the Contemporary Art Society exists to support and develop public collections of contemporary art in the UK. We do so by raising the funds to purchase and commission new works of contemporary art for a national network of public collections, which subscribe to us as Member Museums and Galleries, and by soliciting gifts of works to these collections for public benefit. For 100 years, we have played a unique and largely solitary role in the formation of public collections of contemporary art in this country, donating more than 8,000 works where they are enjoyed by audiences everywhere. We continue to act as a catalyst for the visual arts in the UK, developing audiences, artists, curators, collectors and collections alike.

We are a national membership organisation, bringing together individuals, institutions and organisations, including contemporary art enthusiasts and collectors, curators and artists, and a UK-wide network of public collections in regional museums and art galleries. All proceeds raised through our diverse activities are used to purchase new works of art, both by established artists and the stars of the future, for our Member Museums and Galleries. Throughout our 100 year history, we have championed countless important emerging artists in the UK in their time, including Picasso and Francis Bacon and, more recently, Damien Hirst, Luke Fowler and Elizabeth Price, to name but a few.

Contemporary Art Society