Curatorial Leadership in Collections: Sharing Expertise by Moira Jeffrey

Learning and development - 14 March 2018

“It’s the unexpected outcomes that often count,” says Adele Patrick, Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library. “The things that you didn’t see coming when you joined a project like this.”

Patrick is one of eight curators taking part in Curatorial Leadership in Collections, an action research and advocacy project which supports individual museum partners to develop their own priorities around collecting contemporary art, whilst contributing to a wider network that is thinking about the future of contemporary collections in Scotland.

Partners in CLiC include national institutions, local authority museums and university collections. The project, which involves sharing expertise with curators, and cultural and civic leaders in the UK and overseas is delivered by Dr Kirstie Skinner of Outset Scotland and Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) with support from Museums Galleries Scotland, Creative Scotland and Art Fund.

Dominic Paterson is a lecturer of History of Art at the University of Glasgow and curator at The Hunterian Art Gallery. The Hunterian is one of only two UK museums which will each receive £200,000 from Art Fund’s Moving Image Fund scheme to build their collections of artists’ film and video over the next two years. “The experience of participating in CLiC has been really beneficial for me,” he says. “It was particularly useful in terms of how I developed the application made to Art Fund. Conversations with peers at other collecting institutions in Scotland enabled me to get a clearer sense of the national context, of the ambitions in the sector, and of the role that The Hunterian could play in that.”

The CLiC scheme involves development days themed around the wider role of collections. At The Hepworth Wakefield, for example the group heard from director Simon Wallis OBE about the gallery’s artistic ambitions and its role in promoting economic and regeneration in Wakefield. “CLiC focuses on how to articulate what is distinctive and important about individual institutions,” says Dominic, “but also allows us to learn from visionary work that’s been done internationally in commissioning and collecting, for example through visits and through exchanging knowledge with peers.”

Image: David Oates

Artists and exhibitions have always been at the heart of activities at Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL), and now the team want to develop its first strategy for collecting and commissioning contemporary art. For Adele Patrick, CLiC allows her the space to develop her plans with peers in the wider sector. “It’s the opportunity to feel like I really understood more about the collecting process, for example, what it might be like dealing with private patrons and collectors.”

For Anna Roberston, from the McManus in Dundee, CLiC has offered the opportunity to reflect on her longstanding work with contemporary artists in the civic context. At Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries, Anna recently gave a presentation to her peers on Waldella, a sculptural commission by the artist David Batchelor. It is a much-loved feature of the museum, the most instagrammed work of art in the city’s collections, and has even featured on the side of a Dundee bus. A CLiC workshop on leadership and presentation helped Anna hone her skills in telling the story of the art work, “It became much more about the positive outcomes and far less about the difficulties in getting there.”

The impact of CLiC is of course, not just about developing individual expertise but about advocacy for the role of contemporary art in telling stories and addressing wider issues, enhancing collections in Scotland, and developing new ways of understanding existing collections.

“I’m really delighted for The Hunterian that we have joined the other organisations in the Moving Image Fund scheme,” says Paterson. “And I’m incredibly excited at what it makes possible for us over the coming years. I’m also really pleased to be able to support the arts community in Scotland by bringing great works and great artists here.”
Curatorial Leadership in Collections is delivered by SCAN, with Kirstie Skinner Director of Outset Scotland as lead consultant, and Rachael Browning Head of Programme Development, Art Fund, as adviser.

Curatorial Leadership in Collections is made possible through the generous support of Creative Scotland, Art Fund, Outset Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland.