Trendspotting in our latest exhibition

Our latest exhibition explores Gallery Oldham’s long relationship with the Contemporary Art Society.


The Contemporary Art Society (CAS) was founded in 1910 by a group of artists, critics, curators and art patrons with the aim of furthering the appreciation and understanding of contemporary art. Museums and galleries paid an annual subscription and were given pieces of contemporary art in return. Oldham Art Gallery (now Gallery Oldham) joined the scheme in 1934 and our membership continues to the present day.

This latest exhibition contains a large number of Oldham’s CAS gifts. Others are on permanent display around the building. It showcases examples of many key art movements from twentieth century abstraction to twenty-first century surrealist sculpture, so there’s something for everyone!

Trendspotting provides a snapshot of changing tastes in the art world. It is certainly not a definitive ‘History of British Art in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century’, but rather a reflection of the tastes and interests of a small group of influential people. This modest collection raises questions about the role of organisations like the CAS in shaping art history.

Many of the artists in this exhibition are very well known today, but it is impossible to know how far this is a reflection of the CAS selection committee having a good eye for the important artists of a generation, or whether the fact that these artists had been given to and displayed in museums meant that they came to be seen as significant. In reality, it is probably a mixture of both. Some of the art works were seen as controversial at the time of giving but by today’s standards it is hard to see what the fuss was about!

Trendspotting: 80 years of collecting with the Contemporary Art Society runs from 29 April  to 1 July.