Abstract painting, striking sculptural forms, Pop Art and Op Art dominated the Pavilion exhibitions in the swinging sixties. British artists, such as Bridget Riley and Antony Caro, also reaped Biennale awards during the 1960s.
The 1960s began with a group exhibition of five British artists. Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi, hot on the heels of Armitage’s award in 1958, won the David E. Bright Foundation Prize for a sculptor under 45 for his application of collage techniques to sculpture. Paolozzi showed a herd of abstract bronze sculpture animals at the Pavilion, including Chinese Dog (1958), now part of the Guggeheim’s collection, and Krokadeel (1959), now belonging to the University of Edinburgh’s Art Collection.
The Pavilion’s exhibition also featured engravings by Henry Cliffe and Merlyn Evans, and four prints by sculptor Geoffrey Clarke. The career of Victor Pasmore, a pioneer of British abstract art, was celebrated with a retrospective of his paintings.
These artists were chosen by the same selection committee as the late 1950s and Lilian Somerville, Director of Fine Arts at the British Council, was the Commissioner.
While the Pavilion exhibition featured 28 drawings, paintings and collages by Adams (all important forms to the artist), he also presented life-size metal sculpture. Adams' bronzed steel tubular Column (1961) featured alongside Dalwood’s 6-foot high Minos and High Judge (both 1962). Dalwood also won the David E. Bright Foundation Prize for a sculptor under 45.
Stretched across four-and-a-half metres of wall in the Pavilion were Richards' three vibrant canvases of La Cathédrale engloutie: augmenter progressivement (1960-62), a series inspired by Debussy’s prelude and the artist's talent for music. These paintings helped him to win the Biennale’s international painting prize, called the Giulio Einaudi Prize, and one of the paintings is now part of the British Council Collection.
Despite dramatic thunderstorms at the opening reception, a group exhibition featuring Roger Hilton, Bernard Meadows, Gwyther Irwin and Joe Tilson opened to great success. The artists were chosen by Somerville and the same committee panel as previous years.
The Pavilion exhibition charted ten years of Hilton’s abstract painting, with his work March 1960 (1960), now part of the Tate’s collection, winning him the UNESCO Prize.
Meanwhile, Tilson’s work captured the imagination of European critics as ‘a pop art style independent of American influence’. Working across mixed media, his carpentry skills were evident in Key-box (1963) and the influences of pop art were seen in paintings like Secret (1963).
Modernist sculptor Meadows showed a series of abstract bronze works including Seated Arm Figure (1962).
Irwin was a painter, but presented works made only of string and paper collages. This Pavilion exhibition included his sombre abstract collage on wood, Midnight Hour (1964), which is now part of the British Council Collection. Using materials scavenged during night-time forages around London, such as newspapers and printed magazines, Irwin created collages like his pop art peers. He was inspired by the patterns of the north Cornish coast, transforming string into optical art tableau in the humorously-named A String of Beauty is a Toy Forever (1960).