Art Term

Independent Group

The Independent Group (IG) were a radical group of young artists, writers and critics who met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London in the 1950s, and challenged the dominant modernist (and as they saw it elitist) culture dominant at that time, in order to make it more inclusive of popular culture

Nigel Henderson
Head of a Man (1956)

The Independent Group, or IG, was first convened in the winter of 1952-3 and then again in 1953 -4. It was responsible for the formulation, discussion and dissemination of many of the basic ideas of British pop art and of much other new British art in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Leading artists involved were Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, John McHale, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. The IG also included the critics Lawrence Alloway and Rayner Banham, and the architects Colin St John Wilson, and Alison and Peter Smithson (see brutalism).

In 1953 the IG staged the exhibition Parallel of Art and Life and in 1956 the ground-breaking This is Tomorrow. This exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London was an expression of the IG’s pioneering interest in popular and commercial culture. As Alloway put it: ‘movies, science fiction, advertising, pop music. We felt none of the dislike of commercial culture standard among most intellectuals, but accepted it as fact, discussed it in detail, and consumed it enthusiastically’. This is Tomorrow consisted of a series of environments and a juke box played continuously.

  • Pop art

    Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s in America and Britain, drawing inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture. Different cultures and countries contributed to the movement during the 1960s and 70s

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  • The Legacy of the Independent Group conference audio recordings

    Between architecture and advertising, fine art and mass culture, film and technology, how can the theories and practices of the Independent Group contribute to our understanding of the collapsing disciplinary boundaries of contemporary visual culture? To what extent did the Independent Group anticipate the impact of the digital revolution on visual culture and the value of ephemerality? Mark Wigley delivers a keynote and is joined by international critics, historians and practitioners to discuss these issues.