British Art Studies - starting conversations

  • 14 January 2016


As our ‘News’ blog of the 5th January shows, the Paul Mellon Centre’s recent activities, as well as long-term contributions to British art have received glowing recognition from our colleague Professor Frances Spalding who is the recently appointed editor of the prestigious Burlington Magazine.

As well as drawing attention to ‘the high standards associated with the Centre’, Professor Spalding highlights the timely and serious subject of our British Art Studies online journal, issue 1 ‘Conversation Piece’ feature, titled ‘There’s no such thing as British art’:

An interactive debate opens the PMC’s first edition of British Art Studies. Its theme is nicely ironic: ‘There’s no such thing as British Art’. Behind this lies great confidence in the seriousness with which British art is now discussed. It is widely recognised that British art has gained much from artists from abroad who have settled in or visited this country, while at other times there has been a fertile return to native traditions. Many will welcome the intention of Alex Farquharson, Tate Britain’s new director, to show the many ‘histories’ within British art. It is frequently observed that the terms ‘British’ and ‘English’ are often conflated, and definitions of Britishness, narrowly conceived. If the diversity within the United Kingdom is to be recognised, then a display of Welsh art, from the eighteenth century to the present day, would be welcome, as would, for some people, labels and wall panels in Welsh. It is also a timely moment for fresh interpretations of some aspects of the historic collection at Tate Britain, and, perhaps too, for the placing of British art more firmly in an international context.

This is precisely the sort of debate and discussion that we hoped this controversial provocation would generate. Along with Richard Johns who convened the piece based on the symposium of the same name he organised at York University in 2014, we hope it continues to spark debate long after the final wave of contributions is released on 18th January.

For the Burlington Editorial, see here.

To read submissions from the ‘There’s no such thing as British art’ conversation see here.

To contribute yours comments and observations to the debate, scroll to the end of the page and join the discussion!