10 years |150 artists respond to 500 years of art in UCL's collections.
Exploring the contemporary relevance of the art collections at UCL and the key narratives they impart has been at the core of UCL Art Museum's activity over the past decade. The fact that works in the Museum’s Collections were either explicitly collected for the purpose of instruction or were the product of a process of learning and experimentation by artists early on in their career, makes the Collections particularly suited for this undertaking. In their efforts to create something new and original, artists at any given time were considering the significance and relevance of the work by those who preceded them.
UCL Art Museum is home to a core collection of work by emerging artists spanning 150 years. Since its foundational years in the late 19th century, the Slade School of Fine Art collected the prize-winning works that are now in trust with UCL Art Museum. With new works added to its collections annually through the prize-system a unique and dynamic collection of emerging artists was formed, a long time before this became common currency in the art world. These prize-winning works sit alongside historic collections, international in scope and spanning 500 years, that were donated by philanthropists who believed in the educational use of their art collections. This history and context makes UCL Art Museum's collections the perfect setting for the emergence of new ideas.
Only a small percentage of UCL Art Collections are actually on display in the museum. As a result, that which is visible is in constant dialogue with the hidden and vice versa, bringing to the fore the tensions between access to art and the regulation of its visibility, a theme often explored in the museum's collaborations.
In 2019 UCL Culture launched UCL Public Art with new commissions by Rachel Whiteread and Thompson & Craighead for UCL's Student Centre. UCL Public Art continues a tradition that began in 1851 with the UCL Flaxman Gallery and the first public art commission in 1865 Marmor Homericum from one of the most sought after contemporary artists of the time Henri Triqueti. Together with UCL Peformance Lab, launched with the reopening of UCL's newly refurbished Bloomsbury Theatre, UCL Culture cements the role of artists at the interesection of research and audiences, amplifies the legacy of a decade of artist and curatorial collaborations and UCL's founding principles.
Two activity strands underpin investigations of contemporary relevance of the collections: The annual UCL Art Museum/Slade Collaboration, Artist Commissions, Residencies & Curatorial Collaborations. The two strands frequently intertwine.
- The annual UCL Art Museum / Slade Collaboration
The annual UCL Art Museum/Slade Collaboration began in 2008 with an online exhibition, progressed to a weekend-pop-up, an annual exhibition and finally to funded artists residencies. All the projects began with an invitation to the Slade artists to make new work in response to the Collections. Throughout this past decade 150 artists have produced outstanding new work which is the outcome of their indpendent research. Some artists were at the begining of their educational journey, others more advanced. For some this opportunity was the first encounter with collections-based research. Many of the participating artists have since gone on to win major national and international awards and for many engagement with collections and interdisciplinary research continues to shape and inform a multi-faceted practice.
This pioneering initiative went on to influence how the museum works with artists to interrogate its collections. UCL Culture at large embraced collaboration with artists as part of its core activity. This model has also encouraged other disciplines to engage with the Collections and has contributed to the institutional turn to interdidisciplinary research and integrated research and education. As such, this annual collaboration has prepared numerous emerging artists to embrace collaboration, develop their work beyond the studio, hone their public engagement skills and gain valuable experiences that serves them well on their chosen professional path. For each exhibition, the artists worked with the Museum team on all aspects of the exhibitions. A signficant component was also the development of the public programme, by creating events in which the artists engaged researchers from other disicplines and a wide range of audiences.
Further information about this collaboration is available in RE-LAUNCH, the catalogue accompanying the 2015 exhibition that includes a conversation about the collaboration between Dr Andrea Fredericksen, Curator UCL Art Collections, with Professor Susan Collins, former Director of the Slade. A video capturing the experience of participating artists in the 4th Annual Collaboration Vincula is available here.
Sequel (2009), Transfer (2010), Moreover (2011), Vincula (2012), Duet (2013), Second person looking out (2014), RE-LAUNCH (2015), Vault (2016), The composition has been reversed (2017), REDRESS (2018)
- Residencies and commissions
Since 2008 UCL Art Museum has initiated collaborative projects with contemporary artists and other partners through commissions, residencies and curatorial collaboration, linking current research at UCL across the disciplines with the collections and a wide range of audiences. Collaboration outputs range from performances, installations, exhibitions, talks and screenings. Projects include:
Naomi Salaman, Looking back at the life room (2010), Nelly Dimitranova Flaxman Gallery (2012), Nadine Mahoney, ANON (2012), Marcia Farquhar, Flaxman Exchange (2013), Edward Allington & Jo Volley, Plasterd (2013), Kristina Clackson Bonnington, Girl at the Door (2015), Edward Allington, Neil Jefferies & Gary Woodley, Roderick Tye: The Human Presence (2015), Helena Hunter & Mark Peter Wright, Cabinets of Curiosity (2016), Eloise Lawson, Ruins in a Landscape (2016), David Blackmore (2016, 2017) Liz Rideal Splicing Time (2017), Lisa Gornick, Lisa Gornick Regrets (2017), Tai Shani, Spirit of Slade Ladies Past (2018), Robert Mead (2019)