William Turnbull gets major London exhibition to mark 100 years since his birth

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A major retrospective of works by William Turnbull opens at Frieze’s gallery space at No.9 Cork Street in London later this month (29 June-20 July), to coincide with the centenary of the late post-war British artist’s birth.

Organised by the British dealer Offer Waterman, who has exclusively represented Turnbull’s estate since 2015, it will be the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work since his 1973 Tate retrospective.

Staged across six rooms and two floors at No.9 Cork Street, the show brings together more than 60 paintings and sculptures from the mid-1940s to the mid-1990s, as well as a small number of works on paper from the late 1940s.

Though Turnbull enrolled at London’s Slade School of Fine Art as a painter in the mid-1940s, he soon moved to study sculpture, returning to work in both media in tandem. Writing in a new monograph published by Lund Humphries this month, the Tate’s former director Nick Serota notes how Turnbull’s equal commitment to painting and sculpture confounded some critics. “The world is suspicious of ambidexterity,” Serota writes.

Turnbull’s paintings, including 5-1959 (1959) make a rare appearance at No.9 Cork Street later this month © Prudence Cuming Associates

Indeed, Turnbull’s paintings have rarely been since since his 1973 show. A number of canvases, some measuring more than 5m-long, are to go on display on Cork Street, including examples from his abstract “river” series, which were inspired by Turnbull seeing aerial views of the jungle as a pilot during the First World War.

Other bodies of work include a group of bronze kinetic sculptures made in 1949; a series of “totem” objects, which “engage with the archetype of human existence”, as Serota puts it; and several vibrant colour-field paintings, which will be shown alongside a number of Turnbull’s large spray-painted steel sculptures.

The majority of pieces come from the artist’s estate, complemented by major loans from private collections. Around 50% are for sale, with prices ranging from around £30,000 to £50,000 for works on paper, £60,000 to £220,000 for paintings and £80,000 to £1.1m for sculptures. Pointing to data on the art market app, LiveArt, Waterman says Turnbull’s market “has moved 100%” since 2015. The dealer will show two works by Turnbull at Masterpiece fair (30 June-6 July).

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