Monika Kinleya: a life in art at Plymouth Arts Centre

Giving the Outsiders a home. Plymouth Arts Centre exhibition A Life in Art: Monka Kinley

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Monika Kinleya: a life in art at Plymouth Arts Centre

In 1945 French painter Jean Dubuffet said: “Art does not lie down on the bed that is made for it. It runs away as soon as one says its name: it loves to be incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what it is called.” So it’s probably just as well he gave it a name, L’Art Brut. The concept was developed with Outsider Art, which is where the latest exhibition at Plymouth Arts Centre comes in.

This group exhibition A Life in Art of Monika Kinley explores the significant contribution Monkia, who now lives in Plymouth, made in the world of art.

Since 1984 she continued the work of her partner, Victor Musgrave, who initiated the Outsider exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1979, with co-curator Roger Cardinal. Last year the Musgrave Kinley Collection was gifted by the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Trust, to the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.

According to the Tate Britain site Outsider artists are mainly self-taught, have little or no art historical knowledge, and are adept at exploring their own psyche. And a small collection of Outsider works will be shown as part of the exhibition at the Plymouth Arts Centre.

Along with these, the exhibition shows a selection of works on loan from public collections, galleries and other institutions; and from some artists themselves. It is a sensitive insight into what Monika admires both past and present drawn from her experience of a lifetime in the art world.

Monika  grew up in Berlin and Vienna; after attending school and college in England, she worked at the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) in the 1950s, where the works, exhibitions, and contacts with artists, critics and writers laid the foundations for her continuing activities in the art world.

In the 1960s short periods with commercial galleries led to her decision to try to find artists whose work she admired, and subsequently exhibited in her flat in Hammersmith, London. She showed many artists such as Prunella Clough, Paula Rego, and Frank Auerbach. She wanted to have the chance to get to know the artists themselves.

The intimacy of the flat led to interesting conversations, which would lead not only to the sale of, but continuing interest in their work. Many are now admired and well known and have remained her friends.

This exhibition has been supported by Tate, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Arts Council of England Collection, Marlborough Fine Art, Anthony Reynolds, Flowers Galleries, Sue Pratt Contemporary Art, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery and the artists.

• The exhibition, A Life in Art: Monka Kinley, is at the Plymouth Arts Centre until Sunday, May 1

(image: Monika Kinley and Professor Peter Greenham at the British Art Show, Royal Academy, 1977, for the Queen’s Jubilee. © The Times)