Exhibition launches displaying the secret paintings of designer Keith Cunningham, with a curious story behind it

When Cunningham died in 2014, Mike remembers: “Out of the blue, I had a call from a man who said he had all of Cunningham’s work stored in the basement of another warehouse.” Working with that caller, who turned out to be designer Stephen Rothholz, Mike helped organise the first exhibition of Cunningham’s paintings. Reaching out to London College of Printing alumni via Facebook, the pair raised enough money to exhibit 18 paintings at “a disused and slightly crumbling post office”. Half of the work sold, the other half went back to the warehouse, stacked away with dozens of other paintings that went un-shown.
The solo show, The Cloud of Witness, will run until 21 August, finally displaying work that had remained tucked away for decades. A release from Newport Street Gallery states: “His canvases, like those of Bacon, Kossoff and Auerbach, are covered in powerful strokes of dark pigments conveying strikingly expressive forms. The Cloud of Witness seeks to redefine Cunningham’s role in the London art scene of the 1950s, highlighting not only his ability but also the variety of his inspirations.”
“So, that was it, I thought – job done,” recalls Mike. “But a few months later, Stephen phoned to say that there was a sudden interest in the remaining paintings.” At the time, Mike was unable to reveal which institution. But this week, Mike says, the rest of Keith Cunningham’s paintings will finally go on display at Newport Street Gallery.

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