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Curating Nation: Call for contributions

An Asian student setting up materials in an exhibition display against a forest green wall
An Asian student setting up materials in an exhibition display against a forest green wall
Setting up an exhibition, MA Curating and Collections Chelsea College of Arts UAL © Kirsty Noble
Written by
Cat Cooper
Published date
22 January 2021

Over a series of 3 workshops, Curating Nation will explore how existing narratives of British art might be expanded through curatorial and art historical interventions.

It is the first public event organised as part of the Curating Nation project conceived by Hammad Nasar, hosted by UAL Decolonising Arts Institute. It has been developed in collaboration with British Art Network’s Black British Art Research Group led by Alice Correia, Elizabeth Robles and Marlene Smith.

In conversation with the British Art Show 9 (which will travel between Wolverhampton, Aberdeen, Plymouth and Manchester in 2021-2), Curating Nation invites artists, curators and scholars to consider 3 primary strands of enquiry: 

  1. How are national collections formed, and where do we encounter them?
  2. What stories of nation do touring exhibitions circulate?
  3. What is the role of international constituents, particularly in former colonies, in the co-production of British art histories?

Take part

We invite 15-minute contributions that address the key themes and ideas of each of our 3 sessions. These may be case studies, provocations, propositional positions or artistic interventions for future research or curatorial response. We particularly encourage early career scholars, curators, and researchers to add their voices to these conversations.

Proposal deadline: 15 February 2021 at 11:59 pm (GMT)
Date of gatherings: 21 April, 28 April and 5 May 2021
Location: Online

The workshop series

What new perspectives on ‘British’ art and its histories are brought into focus when exhibitions and scholarship is generated from the outside? Accepting that British art histories are entangled with external, often ex-colonial or Commonwealth, histories, in this session we consider the impact and ramifications of opening ‘the national’ up to co-production.

By paying attention to the role of curatorial and institutional agency we aim to focus on the possibility for more expanded and diverse narratives of British art that account for current socio-political debates around ‘the nation’. The event asks what does the ‘national’ look like, and what roles can art, artists and arts organisations play in shaping national self-perceptions in the 21st century?

Workshop I: What does a national collection look like?

What happens when we shift constructions of British art away from London-centric institutions? Does Tate Britain then cease to be the national collection, and becomes one of many? How might ‘regional’ collections reshape the narrative? What possibilities do digital and distributive models of collection and narrative building hold?

Workshop II: What stories of British art travel?


We ask what versions of British art are exported internationally, and why? Closer to home, we consider how exhibitions such as the British Art Show are received in their various national/regional contexts. In this session we consider the role of national and international touring shows in the establishment and consolidation of a limited set of narratives of Britain, and British art.

Workshop III: What narratives of British art are co-produced internationally?

What new perspectives on ‘British’ art and its histories are brought into focus when exhibitions and scholarship is generated from the outside? Accepting that British art histories are entangled with external, often ex-colonial or Commonwealth, histories, in this session we consider the impact and ramifications of opening ‘the national’ up to co-production.

Confirmed participants

  • Nick Aikens, Curator at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
  • Emma Dexter, Director Visual Arts, British Council
  • Andrew Ellis, Director of Art UK
  • Annie Fletcher, Director of IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Dublin
  • Ann Gallagher, Independent curator and former Director of Collections, British Art, Tate (2006-19)
  • Fiona Kearney, Director of The Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork
  • Roger Malbert, Curator, writer and former Head of Hayward Gallery Touring (2000-18)
  • Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern
  • Marguerite Nugent, Manager, Arts & Culture, City of Wolverhampton Council

How to submit contributions

Please submit your proposal by email (curatingnation@gmail.com) no later than 15 February, 2021.

Your proposal should be not more than 250 words. Please indicate which workshop your contribution will address, and provide your contact details.

Final entries will be reviewed by the workshop convenors:

Dr Alice Correia, independent art historian 
Hammad Nasar, Principal Research Fellow, UAL; Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre; Co-curator, British Art Show 9
Dr Elizabeth Robles, Lecturer in Contemporary Art, Department of History of Art, University of Bristol
Marlene Smith, artist and curator