A Heady New U.K. Exhibition Traces 2,000 Years of Abstraction From the Ancient World to Anni Albers

Katie White, artnet, August 13, 2021

The exhibition organized with dealer Paul Hughes is on view at the Old Chapel of Maiden Bradley Duke of Somerset Estates.

In the 1920s, art historian Aby Warburg began a project he called the “Bilderatlas Mnemosyne” in which he attempted to visually trace recurring visual themes and patterns in art across centuries and continents. Warburg died in 1929, before he could complete the project, but his idea has endured. 

Now, a new exhibition in Somerset, “Continuities,” is attempting to trace (at least some of) the history of abstraction through artworks created over 2,000 years and across numerous cultures. The show, which takes place at the Old Chapel of Maiden Bradley Duke of Somerset Estates, has been curated by dealer Paul Hughes


The exhibition showcases Pre-Columbian works as well as all from Hughes’s collection work by artists such as Anni and Josef Albers, Augusto Ballardo, Fiona Curran, Katharine Swailes, Ptolemy Mann, and Lawrence Claver borrowed for the exhibition. The juxtapositions aim to illustrate how works from different periods and cultures are interwoven across varied chronological and geographical backgrounds. Anni and Josef Albers, for example, played pivotal roles in the Bauhaus and in teaching at Black Mountain College—legacies that have influenced artists up to this day. They, in turn, were deeply inspired by anonymous Andean weavers of centuries ago.

“By analyzing artworks from the past and looking at their details, we can rewind time and experience what a time period different from our own was like and how artists today are inspired by the past,” Hughes wrote. “The living artists and we, the curators, believe that such a project presents ancient art more intimately. Art history becomes more accessible, less of a place where you are told a truth that you have to learn and more of an immersive experience that you grow with, updating the visual language of the historical in alignment with contemporary practice, providing new interpretations and parallels.”