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Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

Photograph of a painting on a wall with a man in a white shirt and black apron stood to right

Kitaj's 'The Architects' in 'London: An Artistic Crossroads'

[ Artist in Focus, Artwork in Focus, News )

We are excited to be lending a significant artwork by R.B. Kitaj to a remarkable exhibition at Sotheby’s – London: An Artistic Crossroads (open until 5 July 2024).

For centuries, the UK has been a cultural magnet for artists from around the world. This exhibition, in partnership with Art UK and twelve museums nationwide, celebrates the UK’s rich heritage and dynamic environment that has inspired countless creatives. From the German painter Hans Holbein at Henry VIII’s court to contemporary visionaries like Dame Paula Rego, the UK’s artistic landscape has been shaped by a diverse array of talents. This exhibition highlights the nation’s role in fostering artistic innovation and cultural exchange. Join us in exploring the vibrant fusion of influences that define British art today, and don’t miss the chance to see Kitaj’s work in this unique context.

What can you expect from London: An Artistic Crossroads?

London: An Artistic Crossroads, will feature an extraordinary collection of works by artists who either passed through or settled in the UK. Visitors can expect to see a wide array of pieces that reflect the dynamic cultural exchange that has shaped British art over the centuries. Highlights include a vivid portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, a renowned 16th-century Flemish portraitist in England, and a striking landscape by André Derain, showcasing London as a place of explosive transformation.


“It is tremendously exciting to mark the beginning of Summer at Sotheby’s with this exhibition, hosted together with Art UK. We have long admired the work that Art UK do to shine a light on our national art collection worldwide, and we share in their goals to make art accessible to all – for learning, research and, above all else, enjoyment.”

Cécile Bernard, Managing Director Europe, Sotheby’s

Photograph of a painting on a wall with a man in a white shirt and black apron stood to right

R.B. Kitaj’s ‘The Architects’, 1981, © Estate of R.B Kitaj, Loan made possible by Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estateof MJ Long / Wilson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery, 2021) (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)


Visitors will also encounter Piet Mondrian’s iconic Composition, created after he moved to Hampstead in 1938 to escape the threat of German invasion, encouraged by fellow artist Ben Nicholson. The exhibition will further feature works by notable émigrés such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and Dame Lucie Rie, who brought diverse influences from metropolitan Germany, rural Ireland, and Vienna, respectively.

The exhibition also includes pieces by Frank Bowling, R.B. Kitaj, and Dame Magdalene Odundo, celebrating their unique contributions to British art. This event coincides with NG200, the Bicentenary celebrations of London’s National Gallery, and aims to complement it by bringing together twelve significant works from regional collections into the capital. The works include:

  • Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Frances Howard (1578–1639), Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, c.1621 on loan from Compton Verney
  • Johann Zoffany, Charles Townley and Friends in His Library at Park Street, Westminster, 1782 on loan from Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum
  • André Derain, Barges on the Thames, 1906 on loan from Leeds Art Gallery
  • Walter Richard Sickert, Reclining Nude (Le lit de cuivre), 1906 on loan from Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
  • Piet Mondrian, Composition C (No. III) with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1935 on loan from Tate Modern
  • Lucian Freud, John Minton, 1952 on loan from the Royal College of Art
Photograph of an abstract painting by Piet Mondriaan being straightened by a woman in a white shirt and black apron right

Piet Mondrian, Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1935, Tate: Lent from a private collection 1981, Loan made possible by Tate, London (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)


  • Francis Bacon, Pope I (Study after Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez), 1951 on loan from Aberdeen Art Gallery
  • Sir Frank Bowling, Big Bird, 1964 on loan from The Victoria Art Gallery & Museum
  • Frank Auerbach, Head of Gerda Boehm, 1964 on loan from the Sainsbury Centre
  • Dame Lucy Rie, Bowl & Vase, 1972 & 1975 on loan from the Crafts Study Centre, University for the Creative Arts
  • B. Kitaj, The Architects, 1981 on loan from Pallant House Gallery
  • Dame Magdalene Odundo, Tall Bottle, 2010 on loan from Aberystwyth University Art Museum

Running from 25 May to 5 July 2024 at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, the exhibition will be enhanced by a series of adjacent exhibitions and auctions, as well as an innovative audio guide by Bloomberg Connects. Visitors can also enjoy a programme of free events.


“The UK holds arguably the greatest public collection of art in the world. Art UK brings together this collection, spread across nearly 3,500 institutions, and shares it online with a global audience of millions. To inaugurate our partnership with Sotheby’s, this exhibition brings together a dozen stunning artworks primarily from museums outside London, highlighting the treasures to be found in our regional collections. It powerfully illustrates how the UK’s rich cultural heritage draws on creators and influences emanating from well beyond our shores. All of us at Art UK greatly look forward to further collaborations with Sotheby’s that showcase the UK’s national art collection.”

Andrew Ellis, Chief Executive, Art UK



The Architects by R.B.Kitaj

The Architects by R.B. Kitaj, painted in 1981, is a masterpiece that encapsulates the close friendship and professional collaboration between Kitaj and the architectural duo, Colin St. John (Sandy) Wilson and MJ Long. This painting holds a special place in Pallant House Gallery’s collection, having been initially acquired in 2006 from the couple, who were instrumental in designing the Gallery’s modernist extension.

In the painting, Wilson and Long are depicted in Kitaj’s studio, which Long had designed herself. The scene is filled with personal and art historical references. The red background, for instance, and the yellow lamp are inspired by Van Gogh’s The Night Cafe, a painting held at Yale University Art Gallery. This is a subtle nod to the couple’s personal life. Long is also painted wearing an American football shirt from Yale University, where she and Wilson met. The studio in The Architects is adorned with a stepped bookcase, another of Long’s designs, symbolising the intellectual and creative exchange between Kitaj and the architects. In the background, you can also see the couple’s two children, Harry and Sal. This layering of references underscores Kitaj’s cerebral approach to art, blending personal connections with broader cultural and historical themes.

Painting by R. B. Kitaj depicting a red room with geometric shapes in an abstract suggestion of an interior. A man wearing a blue jcaket and glasses sits at a table and a woman stands next to him. A small boy and girl stand in the background

R.B. Kitaj, The Architects (1981), Oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of MJ Long / Wilson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery, 2021) © Estate of R.B Kitaj

R.B. Kitaj, The Architects (1981), Oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of MJ Long / Wilson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery, 2021) © Estate of R.B Kitaj


Wilson and Long were not just collaborators but also avid collectors of Kitaj’s work, amassing a collection of around 300 pieces, including prints, drawings, and paintings. This extensive collection highlights their deep appreciation and support for Kitaj’s artistic vision.

One of the most intriguing aspects of The Architects is the story behind the couple’s contribution to Pallant House Gallery. Wilson and Long designed the modernist extension of the Gallery specifically to house their extensive art collection, including numerous works by Kitaj. Many of these works were acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme in 2021 as part of the MJ Long acquisition. This unique situation, where the architects designed a space to display their own collection, adds a deeply personal dimension to the painting.

The Architects is not just a portrait of two significant figures in Kitaj’s life but a testament to the enduring bonds of friendship and collaboration. It captures the essence of their shared journey in the arts, making it a poignant and meaningful piece within our collection. Through this painting, visitors can appreciate the depth of the relationship between Kitaj, Wilson, and Long, and the significant role they played in shaping the Gallery as it stands today.

Sandy Wilson and MJ Long in front of the Architects

Colin St John Wilson and MJ Long in front of The Architects, Photograph by Anne Katrin Purkiss


Who was R.B. Kitaj?

R.B. Kitaj, born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1932, was an artist deeply influenced by his European heritage. With Russian and Hungarian Jewish roots, Kitaj’s sense of identity played a significant role in his work. His journey in art began with studies at the Cooper Union in New York, followed by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, and eventually the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford and the Royal College of Art in London.

Kitaj became associated with the British Pop Art movement due to his time at the Royal College, where he formed close ties with artists like David Hockney. However, Kitaj’s work is distinguished by its intellectual depth, often exploring themes from literature and philosophy. His connections to modernist literature and his friendships with notable figures like Colin St. John Wilson, the architect of the British Library, influenced his artistic practice. Kitaj’s contributions to the “School of London” concept and his impact on the British art scene remain significant, with his works continuing to inspire and provoke thought.

Photograph of a large landscape painting being mounted on a wall by a woman at left corner and man at right corner. It is a colourful work showing sailing boats in a river

André Derain, Barges on the Thames, 1906, Leeds Museums & Galleries © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2024, Loan made possible by Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)


We are delighted to be a part of London: An Artistic Crossroads and encourage you to explore this remarkable exhibition and appreciate the rich tapestry of influences that have shaped British art through the ages.

The exhibition is free to enter and runs until 5 July 2024 at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, London.

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