James Birch (curator)

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James Birch is an English art dealer, curator and gallery owner. He is best known for his innovative championing of British art, in particular for exhibiting Francis Bacon in Moscow, in the then USSR, in 1988 and Gilbert & George in Moscow in 1990 and Beijing and Shanghai in 1993.[1][2][3]

Life and career[edit]

Birch was born in London and educated at the University of Aix-en-Provence, where he studied Art History, before training in the Old Master department of Christie's Fine Art in London where he later established the 1950s Rock & Roll department.[4][citation needed]

In 1983 he opened his first gallery, James Birch Fine Art, on the King's Road, London, where he specialized in the work of British surrealists such as John Banting, Eileen Agar, Conroy Maddox and Grace Pailthorpe, and the Symbolist and magician Austin Osman Spare.[5][citation needed]

In 1984 Birch gave the Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry his first show, with a second quickly following in 1985. Perry was a founding member of the Neo-Naturist cabaret with Jennifer Binnie, who Birch had previously exhibited.[6][7] In 1986 Birch was photographed by Jane England, who included his portrait in her book on 1970s and 1980s subculture in London, Turn and Face the Strange.[8] James Birch Fine Art closed in 1986 and in 1987 Birch opened Birch and Conran Fine Art in Soho, London in association with Paul Conran.[9]

Birch then concentrated on exhibiting Gilbert & George in Moscow in 1990 and Beijing in 1993.[10] The broadcaster and author Daniel Farson wrote the book With Gilbert & George in Moscow (Bloomsbury, 1991) about the Moscow exhibition.[11] Farson also recounted the Francis Bacon (artist) exhibition in Moscow in his biography of Bacon, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon (Pantheon, 1993).

In 1997 Birch returned to exhibiting in London when he opened the A22 Gallery in Clerkenwell, where he showed Keith Coventry, the photographer Dick Jewell, Genesis P-Orridge and two exhibitions by members of The Colony Room.[12][13]

In an article titled 'The Pimpernel Curator', the July 2011 issue of f22 magazine credited Birch with having created some of the 'most imaginative exhibitions of the last twenty years'.[14]

Away from curating, in 2010 Dewi Lewis published Birch's Babylon: Surreal Babies. The book presented Birch's collection of bizarre postcards of babies that were produced in the early 20th century and included a foreword by George Melly[15][16]

In 2016 The Spectator reported that Birch had visited the Democratic People's Republic of Korea where he was working on a show with Keith Coventry.[17]

Notable exhibitions[edit]

  • Gilbert and George (Beijing and Shanghai Museums, People's Republic of China, 1993)[18]
  • Christine Keeler: My Life in Pictures (The Mayor Gallery, London 2010)[19]
  • Elena Khudiakova: In Memoriam (Dadiani Fine Art, 2015)[20][21]


  1. ^ Jonathan Cooper, "Bacon's extraordinary legacy," London Evening Standard, March 7, 2003
  2. ^ Andrew Solomon, "Their Irony, Humor (and Art) Can Save China," New York Times, December 19, 1993
  3. ^ The Moscow Times, "New Bacon Exhibit to Come to Moscow in 2014", ' 'The Moscow Times' ', August 28th 2014
  4. ^ Mike Von Joel, "The Pimpernel Curator", ' 'f22' ', July 2011
  5. ^ Mike Von Joel, "The Pimpernel Curator", ' 'f22' ', July 2011
  6. ^ Grayson Perry, "Letting it all hang out: my life as a naked artist," The Times, June 20, 2007
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Ellie Howard, [2], ' 'Dazed' ', January 2017
  9. ^ Grayson Perry Artist's Profile, Saatchi Gallery
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ Alexis Parr, "Hunt for dead author Dan Farson's life of the artists," The Independent, January 11 1998
  12. ^ Colin Gleadell, "Artists' colony," The Telegraph, October 19, 2001
  13. ^ Joe La Placa, "London Calling," artnet, 2003
  14. ^ Carla Borel, July 2011
  15. ^ Rick Poynor, "Surrealism in the Pre-School Years", ' 'Design Observer' ', December 2010
  16. ^ Mark Sinclair, "Surrealist Babies", ' 'Creative Review' ', 14th December 2010
  17. ^ Digby Warde-Aldam, [4], ' 'Spectator Life' ', 27th April 2016
  18. ^ Solomon;, Andrew (19 December 1993). "Their Irony, Humor (and Art) Can Save China". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Brown, Mark; correspondent, arts (21 July 2010). "Unseen Christine Keeler pictures to go on show". The Guardian. 
  20. ^ Orton, Karen (September 9, 2015). "Elena Khudiakova's Glamorous Soviet Nostalgia". AnOther. 
  21. ^ "In Memoriam: Elena Khudiakova". Wall Street International. 13 August 2015. 

External links[edit]