The Society of Architect Artists was a well-loved and successful Society which exhibited at the RIBA Florence Hall from the mid 1970’s to the 1990’s. It reflected architects’ interest in the Fine Arts but was eventually floored by its own success and the fluctuations in sponsorship of the late 1990’s. By the time the decision was taken to wind up the Society in 2000, the RIBA had stopped supporting it, partly because the very large membership had led to a drop in standards in the work exhibited. Also, the Society had lost its way in terms of actively promoting the link between drawing and architecture and was being regarded as just another mixed show or ‘Sunday Painters’ Society without any particular identity.
At the end of last year, a group of former Committee Members got together informally to see if the Society could be reformed after the prompting of former Chairman David Rock (PPRIBA) who felt the Society could be brought back successfully. A lot has changed in the last 16 years, not least the revolution in internet communication, the use of the computer in art and the new emphasis on drawing as a creative discipline in relation to architecture, so the scene was set for a re-evaluation and a Renaissance of the SAA.
Having sufficient capital left over from the old Society to set up a new website, the committee did just that at – http://www.socaa.co.uk and it is now live. In the interim, the Society of All Artists (another SAA) purloined the key SAA website domain which is now why we are calling ourselves the SocAA. We like this name.
The committee also contacted former Fellows of the old SAA to see if they would once more like to be involved in a new venture of getting the Society underway again and to have an inaugural exhibition in London (we no longer have to have registered architects only and refer to the ARB with the new name). The response was good, given the time lapse, and there were also a number of new ideas that were pursued by the re-formed committee.
The first was to subtly change the name of the Society to make it more inclusive. The idea now is to actively include more art that is related to the concept of depicting architecture. Membership is not restricted to registered architects anymore but has been extended to include landscape architects, urban designers and artists obsessed by architectural themes. However, the new inclusivity will not be at the expense of quality and members will only be accepted if they are committed to producing high quality works of art or evolving the conceptual side of art and architecture with us. Acceptance of work for exhibitions will also be more strictly controlled and assessed. This will remove the criticism of the ‘Sunday Painters’ label and give the Society a unique and progressive identity and a stronger artistic and intellectual base.
Another initiative was to start looking for younger artists and draw them in to the Society in order to tap into their new ideas and creativity. This was helped by Committee Member Richard Rees also being Chairman of the Society of Architectural Illustration and having connections to organisations such as the exciting Anise Gallery in Shad Thames. This gallery has generously let us contact their young artists so that several are now committed to also exhibiting with the SocAA. The Anise promotes the link between art and architecture and in that sense is a synergetic organisation to ours. We are at the early stages of the process of drawing in the younger generation but this is an initiative with the potential to grow and develop and we are giving a prize at the inaugural exhibition to an artist under 35 to encourage this.
This inaugural exhibition of the new SocAA is a modest affair at the Framers’ Gallery in Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, but we hope it starts to establish our credentials and sets us on the course of developing an exciting and engaging Society that has the potential to be a platform for the debate on the relationship between art and architecture.
We are looking for relevant sponsors and new, committed, younger and older members from the architectural and related professions who are interested in creative excellence and taking forward ideas that relate to both the worlds of art and architecture.
The former SAA was part of a European group of like-minded Architect/Artist Societies under the umbrella title of Ligne et Couleur as the oldest organisation was first founded in France (1966). The Scottish Society of Architect Artists (SSAA), which is also part of Ligne et Couleur is very active and has had four exhibitions in Scotland this year to celebrate the Scottish Architecture Festival. We have recently been in contact with Ligne et Couleur in France and have sent work to their exhibitions. A feature of future exhibitions will be invitations to submit works from our European friends and we will keep them in touch with our progress. We are looking to promote two exhibitions a year and will keep you in touch with our progress.
The 2016 SocAA Committee:
David Cullearn (Treasurer)