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LightJet on archival matt paper

© Berni Searle.

Annual Conference: Re-Writing the Canon?

Held at The Courtauld Institute of Art on 14 May 2019

The 2019 CAS Annual Conference brought together scholars, curators and museum professionals to consider significant recent initiatives in collecting, exhibitions and display, and the issues they raise. In recent decades, notions of a fixed “canon”, or a single narrative in modern and contemporary art has come under question from all sides. Museums and galleries have been at the centre of the debate, playing an active part in revising art history.

Modern art as a story of national histories and defined stylistic movements has come under scrutiny, with international museums adopting global, post‐colonial and supra‐national perspectives ranging far beyond the traditional Western‐centric model. Boundaries and hierarchies of value between different art forms have been dismantled. Issues of identity and representation have come to the fore, and renewed attention is being paid to museums’ responsibilities to their local communities.

How can museums keep pace and respond to these new imperatives?

What happens when ‘the grand narratives’ are no longer considered fit for purpose?

How are collections, exhibitions and displays to be rethought – according to what criteria, and for whom?


Introduction by Caroline Douglas, Director, Contemporary Art Society and Martin Caiger-Smith, Courtauld Institute of Art

Part I: Museum Collections

Christopher Bedford, Director, Baltimore Museum of Art, USA: Creating and Implementing a More Inclusive Museum Vision

Sook Kyung-Lee, Senior Curator, Tate Modern, UK: Indigenous Art: A Decolonial Project

Hilke Wagner, Director, Albertinum, Dresden, DE: Cold War Reverberations in Thinking and Displaying Museum Collections

Discussion between the three speakers, moderated by Martin Caiger-Smith, Head of the MA Curating the Art Museum, Courtauld Art Institute of Art

Part II: Exhibitions and Displays

Denise Murrell, Co-Curator of Black models: from Géricault to Matisse at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris: The Canon as Muse in Global Contemporary Art

E-J Scott, Curator of the Museum of Transology, hosted by Brighton Museum: Putting Gender on the Museum Agenda

Helena Reckitt, Reader in Curating, Goldsmiths, University of London: Fostering Feminist Relations

Part III: Roundtable Discussion and Final Remarks

Discussion and final remarks, moderated by Ben Luke, The Art Newspaper

CPD Resources

C-type prints, wallpaper, ephemera on 100 placards on Correx attached to wooden struts and sound