Annual Conference – The Museum as Battlefield: Alternative Models of Museum Practice

Lawrence Lek, Geomancer, 2017. CGI video still, commissioned by Jerwood/FVU Awards, London. Courtesy: the artist
Lawrence Lek, Geomancer, 2017. CGI video still, commissioned by Jerwood/FVU Awards, London. Courtesy: the artist

2 May 2017


BP Lecture Theatre
British Museum
London, WC1B 3DG United Kingdom

Organiser: Contemporary Art Society

Sackler CPD Programme members: free

Non-members: £15

Lunch will be provided




Conference Schedule

11.00-11.30 Coffee

11.30 -11.40 Introduction by Dr. Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum

11.40 – 11.50 Introduction by Caroline Douglas, Director of the Contemporary Art Society


Session 1 The Museum and its Public

11.50 – 12.20 Speaker 1: Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

“The public museum and populist reason”


12.20 – 12.50 Speaker 2: Prof. Andrea Phillips, PARSE Professor of Art, Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg

“Museum as Social Condenser”


12.50- 13.10 Discussion with two speakers and the Moderator: Alistair Hudson, Director, MiMA, including audience Q+A


13.10-14.10 Lunch (and screening of A Restoration (2016) by Elizabeth Price)


Session 2 The Critical Museum

14.10 – 14.40 Speaker 1: Prof. Paul Goodwin, Director of TrAIN, The University of the Arts Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation

“Notes on curating and recalcitrance in the global museum”


14.40 – 15.10 Speaker 2: Dr. Clementine Deliss, Independent Curator

“Conceptualising a Museum-University: Repositories as sites for trans-disciplinary research and cultural exchange”


15.10 – 15.30 Discussion with two speakers and Moderator: Melanie Keen, Director of Iniva, Institute of International Visual Arts, including audience Q+A


Session 3 The Museum of the Future

15.30- 16.00 Speaker 1: Lawrence Lek, Artist

“Memory Palaces: Site-Specific Simulation and Virtual Reality Artworks”


16.00 – 16.30 Speaker 2: Prof. Victoria Walsh, Head of Programme, Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art

“Curating at the intersection of the art museum and networked cultures?”


16.30 – 16.50 Discussion with two speakers and Moderator: Dr. J.J. Charlesworth, critic and online editor at ArtReview, including audience Q+A

16.50-16.55 Thank-you by Dr. Ali MacGilp

17.00  Finish



This year the Contemporary Art Society Annual Conference examines radical strategies that museums around the world are deploying to rethink the way they display and conceive of their collections, and in how they operate within their communities. Generously supported by The Sackler Trust, this is the first conference under The Sackler Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programme, a new three year partnership with the organisation to support museum curators across the UK.

The speakers will propose and reflect on a rich array of alternative models of the museum: archive of the commons; site of resistance; social condenser; location for fieldwork; school; forum to debate our values; laboratory; venue for public programming; source material for a choral history; member of an international confederation of institutions.

They will examine some of the experimental strategies currently being used to repurpose museums for the twenty-first century. What does it mean for a national museum of modern art to embrace the ‘global’ and ‘cultural diversity’ when their collections are rooted in Eurocentric art historical narratives? The pioneering response of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid is to view its collection as a universal archive rather than a storehouse of treasures.

The speakers will discuss the hopes and frustrations entailed in the development of alternative models of museum practice. These include new models of egalitarian management to make museums truly participatory, using digital technologies to mediate the museum experience as part of our everyday visual culture and developing innovative models of artist/ curator collaboration in commissioning works for collections.

Founded in 1753, the British Museum is a pertinent place to bring together some of the most interesting thinkers on the role of the museum today.

Please note that due to security restrictions large luggage is not allowed on the British Museum premises (more info).

To book a place as a Sackler CPD Programme Member and/or apply for a bursary please email

To book a place as a non-Sackler CPD Programme member please pay using the link below


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