Spotlight on the Slade

Unlocking the potential of a unique collection through curatorial research and engagement


Spotlight on the Slade Collections (2015-2018) 

UCL Art Museum received a Curatorial Research Grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in 2015 to help support a research curator for three years to catalogue the Slade Collections, an important historic resource comprised of over 3,000 paintings, drawings and prints. The primary aim of the project was to unlock the considerable potential of the collection by cataloguing it and researching it to faciliate widening access in the future with a high-quality visual and textual resource about this unique archive via an improved online catalogue. This research enabled us to establish that 45% of the Slade Collections comprise of work by women artists. As a result we have become a research hub for discussions around women artists past and present and gender equality in the visual arts. To this end we are in the process of developing a sustainable collaborative research network dedicated to the subject of women artists. For more information on this project please contact museums@ucl.ac.uk

Spotlight on the Slade Collections was led by Helen Downes, Paul Mellon Research Curator at UCL Art Museum 2015-18.

New findings from the research.

Outcomes were shared through a series of events, conference papers, workshops and the exhibition Prize & Prejudice in 2018.

This research continues to inform UCL Art Collections collaborations, most recently our Rightsholder research project launched on the occassion of the Slade 150th anniversary.

About the Slade Collections

UCL Art Museum’s Slade Collections form a unique document of English art school practice in the modern age. Many of the key figures in British art studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, and the School's annual prize system has provided UCL with important examples of the early work of artists such as Stanley Spencer, Augustus John, Walter Sickert, David Bomberg, Winifred Knights, Paula Rego, Craigie Aitchison and Euan Uglow. 

The Slade was the first art school to admit women on equal terms and the collection is strong in the work of women artists. The collection’s inclusion of lesser-known artists also provides a valuable counterpoint to the collections of national museums. UCL Art Museum continues to receive prize works from current Slade students, making the Slade Collections a living resource that continues to document contemporary art school practice.

While the Slade Collections are widely used for teaching and research and are extremely popular with visitors, access to this core collection is severely hampered by lack of information about the artwork and limited online catalogue entries. This project enabled the Art Museum to carry out essential collections research, enrich the online catalogue and improve its search functions to open up access to information about Slade artists and artwork.

'Slade Women Artists' workshop with British Art Network (2017)

The Spotlight on the Slade project prompted a series of events, displays and collaborations, which took place against the backdrop of the 2018 centenary of the Representation of the People Act. One important example was the 'Slade Women Artists' workshop on 9th May 2017 when UCL Art Museum hosted the fourth meeting of the Tate British Art Network Sub Group British Women Artists, 1750-1950 . Piloting a participatory workshop model, and experimenting with new ways of capturing specialist knowledge in relation to a primarily stored collection, the meeting provided a platform for sharing research and debating and examining methods of curating women’s art. 

Through participant research, presentations and a group task, the workshop successfully generated research into 17 neglected Slade women artists and facilitated debate around possible exhibition methods. You can read a blog post about the workshop here.

Our aim is to build and share widely an important information resource for research into 20th-century and contemporary British art.

Share this: