Re-Launch of UCL Art Museum HQ
By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 28 May 2015
It’s been an exciting few months for UCL Art Museum’s HQ with the completion of reburbishment work and the opening of our Re-Launch summer exhibition. Our main space may sit on a footprint that is just short of that of half a tennis court but for a space so small we have big ambitions and a wide reach.
The room is designed on the model of a traditional Print Room with over 8,000 works on paper carefully stored in our cabinets, the earliest dating back to 1470’s and works are right up to the present day with Slade school of art prize winners being added, making our collection alive and current. We’re a little gem of a collection, hidden away to the right of the main portico in Wilkin’s neoclassical main building. The aim of the re-furbishment was to shine a light on this gem of a space collection and make it more accessible and practical to use for our audience, improve our teaching and research facilities and enable us to welcome more people into the Art Museum. A lot of the re-burbishement is invisible; electrical wiring behind walls and under floor boards, new security measures, improved use of space and some new lighting to show off our beautiful flaxman plasters.
At the same time as re-opening the space we launched our summer exhibition Re-Launch. This exhibition presents a selection of objects, prints and video made in response to our collections and the theme of re-launch. Its contributors hail from the Slade School of Fine Art and have participated as students in our celebrated annual Slade/UCL Art Museum collaborations over the course of the past six years. The exhibition’s run is from 27 April-12 June, Mon-Fri, 1pm-5pm.
Participating artists in the exhibition are; Ian Giles, Jonathan Kipps, Katja Larsson, Nadine Mahoney, Julia McKinlay, Milou van der Maaden,Janne Malmros, Kate Keara Pelen, Cyrus Shroff, Printers’ Symphony.
The exhibition was co-curated by UCL Art Museum Curator Andrea Fredericksen and Artist/ Curator Keef Winter. Artists, Gary Woodley and Ian Monroe also contributed to the refurbishment and installation.
We had over 400 people come to our Private View events in April and May and it was wonderful to welcome artists, supporters, students, colleagues, art professionals and academics to celebrate and share in our achievements with us. You can see more photos from the events on UCL News Flickr. Since opening we’ve had 1,300 people come and see the exhibition and have been getting lots of really positive comments back.
As part of the public programme accompanying Re-Launch we have run a number of events including a lunchtime talk with artist Nadine Mahoney on 12 May about her work Once More with Feeling, included in the exhibition. She also talked about how she’d taken inspiration from the collection by taking on the daunting task of looking at every single portrait we have, paying particular interest to those portraits where the sitter is anonymous.
We also worked in partnership with Zabludowicz Collection on a two day symposium Collecting the Emerging, which involved academics, curators, collectors and artists coming together to examine issues around collecting new and experimental art and what it means to be an emerging artist. It was a fascinating few days with over 200 people in attendance, some great speakers and some lively debates covering economic and aesthetic value in the emerging art market; emerging practice and its relationship to historical narratives and collections; and how the current enthusiasm for collecting contemporary art impacts on artists practices that are still at an early stage. Speakers included Edward Allington Professor of Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, Louisa Buck independent critic/Contemporary Art Correspondent, The Art Newspaper, Dr. Ben Cranfield Director, Doctoral Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies, School of Arts, Birkbeck and Sarah Thelwall Creative and Cultural Industries Strategist amongst others. Dr Tim Vermuelen, Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies and Theory at the University of Nijmegen gave the key note speech with highlights including anaologies of the art market being like the film Finding Nemo; in the sense that we’re all swimming in our own specific waters and this affects how we behave as artists, collectors, art professionals, to discussions around Nirvana, Tony Blair, consumeriam and the cultural state of the 1990’s compared to now, creating a comparison with our current cultural experience.
On the Friday evening we went to Zabludowicz Collection to have a guided tour of their 20 Years exhibition and to experience an amazing performance piece by artist Laura Buckley, commissioned especially for the symposium. Throughout the symposium, the conversations ranged from the academic, theoretical, philosophical, commercial to the very practical ways in which emerging artists can survice and keep their practice going. We were delighted to be able to partner with Zabludowicz Collection on this and hope that this will just be the start of a continuing relationship with them and a chance for us to programme similar events and collaborations where the Art Museum initates, hosts and engages in issues around contemporary art supported by a historical and collections based background of research and experience.
Below is a link to where you can watch the symposium, as live streamed by This is Tomorrow during the symposium.
Jenny Wedgbury is Learning and Access Officer for UCL Art Museum