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In 1949 and idea was put forward by Carel Weight (1908-1997), then teaching at the Royal College of Art, that the vacant RBA galleries in Suffolk Street, London could be used to exhibit students' work and early shows tended to be dominated by the work of the RCA students but eventually students from other art schools also began exhibiting there. In the 1960s the Young Contemporaries' exhibitions moved to the Whitechapel Art Gallery in Londonís East End, through these shows Pop Art, especially the work of David Hockney, first attracted the attention of the public. Much of the administration of the exhibitions was undertaken by the students and among the many artists who first showed with the Young Contemporaries were Frank Auerbach (1931-), Robyn Denny (1930-2014), Leon Kossoff (1926-2019), Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith (1928-2011). Lack of funding and organisational skills meant that sometimes exhibitions failed to happen and 1970 saw the last show for a few years.

However, in 1974 a group of tutors from some London colleges, including Gillian Ayres (1930-2018), Paul Huxley (1938-) and William Tucker (1935-), revived the exhibition and a new constitution was drawn up and the exhibition was named New Contemporaries, with its first exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre in 1974. Financial problems beset this new organisation which lasted until 1986 when the catalogue for that yearís show prefaced by Andrew Lambirth, contained an historical foreword entitled 'New Contemporaries Past and Present'. However, The New Contemporaries continues today under the auspices of the ACGB and has had much sponsorship. Patrons include or have included British Telecom, Bloomberg and the Moores family of Liverpool. It shows at the ICA, London and also tours to four UK regional centres. A new generation of exceptional artists including Monster Chetwynd, Rachel Maclean, Haroon Mirza, Hardeep Pandhal, Laure Prouvost and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. New Contemporaries, 1st Floor, Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA.

Northern Young Contemporaries was established in 1965 and held regular exhibitions at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester which lasted until 1993. Similarly Scottish Young Contemporaries was established by Richard Demarco in 1969 and appears to have lasted into the early 1990s latterly under the auspices of the SAC.