Art detective: finding Karel Lek

As the 1953 ‘Football and the Fine Arts’ exhibition was the starting point for the Art of Football project, I have been going through our photocopies of the price list for exhibited works and the exhibition catalogue to see if I can find any of those listed for sale now.

K. Lek in the Football and the Fine Arts catalogue
Image of Karel Lek’s ‘Off to the Match’ in the NFMs photocopy of the 1953 Football and the Fine Arts exhibition catalogue

A few months ago I came across the name K. Lek in the exhibition catalogue.  I didn’t have any prior knowledge of this artist (shame on me!) – but as there is an image of the work in the catalogue, and the name might be uncommon enough to find online, I thought I would give this a go.  The artwork in the exhibition catalogue is entitled ‘Off to the Match’, and is a wood engraving showing various male football fans.

I didn’t have to dig very deep to find Lek’s first name! A Google search for ‘K Lek artist’ immediately brought up results for Karel Lek.  There was more to read about Karel’s history than I was perhaps expecting.  Born in Antwerp in 1929, Karel came to live in North Wales after fleeing Belgium with his parents during the Second World War. Karel is an active artist, still producing work in North Wales.  This meant that I could try to contact him and find out more about his life, his art, and if he knew the whereabouts of ‘Off to the Match’.

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Missing out at auction…

As part of my role as Art Research Officer at the National Football Museum, I keep up to date with upcoming auctions and private sales of any football artwork which might be relevant to the museum collection. Recently, a colour lithograph came up for auction – ‘Goal!’ by Clifford Fishwick, 1953.  In a similar situation to the Peter L. Peri print we acquired previously (see this post), the museum does already have ‘Goal’ in the collection, but this is a loan. By purchasing one of these lithographs, this would become a permanent addition to the museum’s collection.  So I put in a commission bid with the auction house – this meant the auctioneer could bid on my behalf up to a certain amount (works the same as an eBay maximum bid!).

Clifford Fishwick
Screenshot of the artwork listing on The-Saleroom.com

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Scoring our first purchases

Back in June, the Head of Collections and Exhibitions and I met with Dr Mike O’Mahony, the academic partner for the Art of Football project (University of Bristol). This was a great chance to meet Mike in person, hear about his teaching and research interests, and to discuss our ideas for the next steps of the project.

Blog posters
Original posters, 20th Century. National Football Museum collection.

At this meeting I showed Mike some of the artworks I had found which are currently for sale, dating from the late 1930s right up to the 2000s. We discussed which of these would be good to pursue for purchase; how they could enhance the collection and how they could be used. Some of the items on the list were a group of 20th Century posters with various football imagery – one of these is a London Transport poster from 1958, and the others are Russian film posters and a Soviet sports propaganda poster.

The latter fall under two of Mike’s specialisms – Art in Russia and the Soviet Union, and the representation of sport and physical culture.  As well as filling one of the gaps in our art collection for original prints/advertising ephemera, the artwork is also striking! And so, these posters were the first official purchase for the project, hooray!  Here I am opening the packages on their arrival.  Look at those designs and colours!

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Getting the ball rolling again…

Following a bit of a break, a new Art Research Officer has been put in post for The Art of Football project. Hi! I will be working at the National Football Museum on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, looking at what art works are currently in the museum collection, identifying the gaps we hope to fill, researching what art works are currently for sale and those in upcoming auctions etc. I will be using the sale catalogue for the 1953 Football and Fine Arts competition as my starting point (not this delicate copy, I must add!).

IMG_5263
Football and the Fine Arts catalogue, 1953.

Initially, I have been getting to know the rest of the team here at the National Football Museum, reading up on the project’s outline and progress so far and doing the slightly less glamorous, but highly important jobs such as setting up budget spreadsheets and project timelines. Continue reading “Getting the ball rolling again…”

Iconic Football Art on Display

A selection of highlights from the National Football Museum’s surprising art collection have gone on display in Manchester for the first time.

Exhibited as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures project ‘The Art Of Football’, this small selection of highlights from the museum’s collection features a range of art that takes football as its inspiration.

A number of artworks displayed are from 1953; the same year L.S. Lowry’s iconic Going To The Match won the inaugural Football And Fine Arts competition arranged by The FA and the newly-formed Arts Council.

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Gerald Cains on Saturday Taxpayers (1953)

On Tuesday 14th of April Sally Hawley and John O’Shea travelled to Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy to meet with Gerald Cains – painter of “Saturday Taxpayers”.

Using a small digital sound recorder we conducted some oral history recordings relating to:

  • Gerald’s memory of the 1953 exhibition
  • his inspiration for this specific work
  • the development of his painting in the time since then (including his entry to 2006/07’s One Love exhibition at the Lowry in Salford)
  • his thoughts regards football as a topic for art

The interview took a little over an hour and the resulting recordings have been added to an archive folder on our server for further research. Published below is is short excerpt where Gerald Cains describes his initial inspiration for the work Saturday Taxpayers”:

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Art History – Part 2 (discussion)

Having engaged with a range of works on display (see Art History Primer – Part 1) the second part of the day involved a much closer examination, with members of the NFM Collections Team (Dr. Alex Jackson and Sally Hawley) of an item which had been specially brought to Manchester from museum’s collection, (the majority of which is held in Preston).

Gerald Cains’ “Saturday Taxpayers” is a painting which was created for the 1953 “Football and the Fine Arts” exhibition, a collaborative between the Football Association and the newly formed Arts Council of Great Britain and a seminal moment in the history of “football art”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/saturday-taxpayers-228850

Continue reading “Art History – Part 2 (discussion)”