The ICA was founded by a collective of artists, poets and their supporters, including Peter Gregory, E.L.T. Mesens, Roland Penrose, Herbert Read and Peter Watson. Read described already back the ICA in 1947 as ‘a workshop’ and its program as ‘daring’. During the late 1940s and 50s, the ICA presented groundbreaking projects organized by members of the Independent Group, including Growth and Form (1951) and Parallel of Life and Art (1953). Often referred to as the birthplace of Pop art, the ICA supported very early on proto-Pop artists Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, as well as staging first major British institutional exhibitions by Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Alison and Peter Smithson.
Over the subsequent decades, the ICA has staged numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, among those the first institutional exhibitions by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tacita Dean, Damien Hirst, Douglas Huebler, Mike Kelley, Mary Kelly, Barbara Kruger, Ilya Kabakov, Gabriel Orozco, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman.
Many of the world’s leading thinkers have given keynote lectures at the ICA and defined of how we think about culture and society today: Monica Ali, J.G. Ballard, Roland Barthes, John Berger, Homi K. Bhabha, Jacques Derrida, T.S. Eliot, Michel Foucault, Slavoj Žižek and many others.
The Cinema continues to be a major voice in introducing independent film to a local and global audience. Decades of pioneering filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman, Kenneth Anger, Matthew Barney, Derek Jarman, Isaac Julien, Abbas Kiarostami, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Joshua Oppenheimer and Laura Poitras call the ICA their home, earning us the reputation of one of the world’s most important independent cinemas, with a strong focus on the presentation of artists’ film and the moving image.