The Art Object and British Culture

Session Abstract : This workshop brings together modern British art historians to consider some of the challenges and possibilities of working between British art history and British history. What is ‘British Art Studies’, and what does this sub-field of art history have to offer academic and public historians?

At a time when the already limited teaching of art history in schools has been threatened, and local museums and galleries – including those in the West Midlands – face funding cuts and even closure, this workshop will consider what role the study of the history of art objects should play within this context. How might it speak – better or more urgently – to the need to work intellectually, publicly, and politically as historians in the current climate? Five proposition papers of ten minutes each will consider these questions through case studies based on individual research or wider reflections in order to begin to instigate wider and, we hope, cross disciplinary discussion.

The speakers and topics will be:

Sarah Monks (University of East Anglia) on the cosmopolitanism of ‘British’ art in the 18th century.

Kate Nichols (University of Birmingham) on civic collections in British post industrial heartlands: Victorian ideals and contemporary local authority cutbacks.

Amy Tobin (Goldsmiths, University of London) on a little-known installation called A Woman’s Place (1974) that explored the politics of home, housing and the family in the context of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain.

Alice Correia (University of Salford) on stories of resistance and resilience: picturing black British history in the 1980s.

Jiyi Ryu (University of York) on doing ‘British Art and Empire Studies’ and postcolonial art history in the present moment.

The remaining forty minutes of the workshop will take the form of a facilitated discussion in response to the proposition papers that will reflect on the urgency and efficacy of art objects for understanding modern British culture.

Session Chair: Greg Salter