Reaching new and wider publics for art at Tate Liverpool and Modern: critical and creative innovations in exhibition conception, design and learning programmes

Submitting Institution

University of Southampton

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

In times of financial instability, there is particular pressure on arts and cultural institutions to operate effectively and attract, develop and retain new audiences. Research conducted at the University of Southampton's Winchester School of Art has directly enabled key cultural institutions to address these challenges. Since 2009 three major Tate exhibitions/events with related public education activities were built out of this research — resulting in over £140,000 of economic benefits for the Tate through ticket sales, a broadening of traditional audiences, and greater public understanding and knowledge of art and social history.

Underpinning research

Art exerts a powerful influence on societal development. It raises awareness about social issues, connects communities and provides a means of interpreting and understanding the world around us. This insight has been the impetus for research at the University of Southampton's Winchester School of Art (WSA) and formed the basis for the establishment of the Winchester Centre for Global Futures in Art Design & Media (hereafter, Global Futures' Centre) in 2011.

Led by Director of Research, Professor Jonathan Harris (February 2011-present), Global Futures' Centre researchers have worked in partnership with Tate Liverpool to co-develop exhibitions and public-learning events. These partnerships grew out of Harris' research on the changing roles of the state and cultural institutions within modern societies as explored in his 2013 study `From the Spiral to the Turbine'. Completed at Southampton, this essay (the last chapter of a broader historical study) concerns Tate Modern's Turbine Hall exhibitions which, Harris argues, represent the attempt to demonstrate that contemporary art can still give expressive visual and material form to a new politically and aesthetically radical critique of the world's social order [3.1]. In research for Globalisation and Contemporary Art, conducted at Southampton, Harris examined global art, artists, institutions, forms, means of production, discourse and visual arts education since c1970. Findings included the insight that key cultural institutions are part of a dynamic globalisation process in which cultural and social change are bound together [3.2].

These findings complement earlier WSA research by Ian Dawson, Lecturer in Fine Art and Design (2001-present), on the work of 19th century Techno-Green Utopianist John Adolphus Etzler's idea of `omni' material made out of mulched bi-product. A component of this research involved the realisation of a three-day material experiment as part of Tate Modern's House of Fairy Tales event (May 2009) during which members of the public participated in an Etzler-inspired, choreographed performance during which mass-produced objects (computer discs, VHS tapes, dog biscuits, cotton buds, etc.) were transformed into `omni' material [3.4].

Global Futures' Centre research has been framed by three exhibitions co-developed with Tate Liverpool:

For Tracing the Century, August Davis, Research Fellow (2011-present), researched drawing as an artistic practice, its interstices with the history of multi-media use (e.g. Calder's line drawings with wire) and ideas of drawing in space with 3-D materials. She argued that, contrary to ideas that drawing is part of a larger artistic process, for many practitioners drawing is an artistic end in itself.

For Glam! The Performance of Style, Jonathan Faiers, Reader in Fashion and Textiles, (2010-present) and John Hopkins, Senior Lecturer (2006-present), investigated the relationship between art (e.g. Hockney), fashion and style [3.5]; Harris and Davis developed a critical history of 1970s visual art, linking elements of social, cultural and artistic change [3.3]; and Oliver Peterson Gilbert, PhD Student (2012-present) produced exhibition-linked outreach and learning events [3:6].

Since 2012, Harris' research for Keywords, an exhibition planned to open in March 2014, has focused on how changes in the meanings of words (e.g. sex, theory, culture) reflects cultural shifts in society — research underpinned by a text by the Welsh cultural theorist Raymond Williams.

References to the research


3.1 Jonathan Harris `From the Spiral to the Turbine: A Global Warning,' in The Utopian Globalists: Artists of Worldwide Revolution, 1919-2009 (Wiley-Blackwell, Boston & Oxford: 2013. 978-1-4051-9301-6): 316-32 (REF2014 Output)


3.2 Jonathan Harris (ed.) Globalisation and Contemporary Art (Wiley-Blackwell, Boston and Oxford: 2011. 978-1-4051-7950-8): main and 7 section introductions by Harris (REF2014 Output)

3.3 Jonathan Harris (& Barry Curtis) `Glam! Timeline,' in Darren Pih (ed.) Glam. The Performance of Style (Tate Publishing: London, 2013. 978-1849760928): 146-56. 6 February 2013, 13:00 GMT, Glam! Timeline was posted on front page of The Guardian online — still on-line (as of June 2013): HYPERLINK


3.4 Ian Dawson & Cedar Lewisohn (curator, Tate Modern) The House of Fairy Tales (Tate Modern performance/installation, 22-24 May 2009) HYPERLINK
Gavin Turk, "20/20", in frieze, September 2011, available on-line: HYPERLINK Turk wrote of Dawson's HoFT project that it was `exploratory, playful and has a kind of raw power. I [...] watched him work tirelessly for about five days with children to make a boat out of glitter, household junk, vegetation and bonding plaster — it was awe-inspiring.' Also printed in The Independent, Friday, 2 September 2011; available on-line: HYPERLINK

3.5 Glam! The Performance of Style (co-developed exhibition at Tate Liverpool, 8 February-12 May 2013)
Jackie Wullschlager, Exhibition Review: `Glam! The Performance of Style, Tate Liverpool', Financial Times, 3 February 2013, available on-line: HYPERLINK Liverpool's exhibition [...] is the first to explore how the "Glam" aesthetic of kitsch and androgyny permeated art in Europe and North America.'


3.6 AHRC CDA 2011 competition (AH/J009687/1): £218,016. `Creative Communities in Art & Design since the 1960s': 7 year programme for 4 full-time PhD students (PI: Harris, with the Head of Learning at Tate Liverpool).

Details of the impact

Research by Winchester School of Art academics has directly enabled Tate Liverpool and Tate Modern to bridge the gap between art, cultural institutions and the public. In addition, co-developed exhibitions and related events generated over £140,000 in ticket sales.

Dawson's 2009 performance installation based on his Etzler research for Tate Modern was visited by 90,000 members of the public, many of whom actively participated in `creative learning through play', destroying provided materials to create omni material sculptural forms [5.1]. As part of the event, participants were briefed on Dawson's research findings and co-opted into Etzler's `Tropical Emigration Society'. The event's curator Cedar Lewisohn, said the event `celebrate(d) the Tate Collection in its widest form...what we wanted to do was come up with lots of ideas which explored arte povera in its widest context. Participation is a really big aspect of it, and materials, the use of material, using impoverished materials in new ways' [5.1].

This early example of a collaborative partnership was formalised through the Global Futures Centre and Tate Liverpool in 2011. Since then, WSA research findings have been disseminated to key museum staff during generative meetings for Tracing the Century (17/5/12, 23/6/12), Glam! (4/10/12, 6/12/12, 15/1/13, 7/6/13) and Keywords (16/1/13, 7/2/13, 5/4/13, 18/6/13). Lindsey Fryer, Head of Learning, says researchers' `historical and contemporary perspectives' communicated during these meetings have led to new Tate strategies to `engage a range of publics from early years and families to young people [...] and independent learners' [5.2].

Specific examples of how WSA research improved Tate exhibitions include Davis' research supporting her proposal that curators' could adopt an alternate focus and organisation for Tracing the Century. This resulted in the development of new ideas in the museum's presentation of key principles — an impact reflected in Tate's decision to change the exhibition's name from Tracing the Outline to Tracing the Century, a direct reference to Davis' insights on the evolution of drawing. The show attracted 5,115 visitors, generating £7,894 in ticket sales. Visitor feedback included the comment `(Curation) was better than normal. It was a brave choice...quite inspiring really' [5.3].

For Glam! WSA research findings contributed to Tate Liverpool's decision to broaden the remit and audience of the show beyond the traditional bounds of an art-interested audience. Its curator Darren Pih says WSA research demonstrated the `show needed to be re-calibrated to make it more legible [...] as an attitude and style, requiring a more anthropological focus' [5.4]. Harris and Davis translated their socio-historical analysis of 1970s art into a timeline that was fully reproduced in the exhibition catalogue. WSA researchers designed the exhibition's `glamscapes' — walls of visual material (e.g. record covers, magazines, etc) identified in their research as `revealing how fine art ideas fed through to the front-face of popular culture'. The lasting institutional impact is evidenced by Francesco Manacorda, Tate's Artistic Director, who said: `The success of Glamscapes has made me ... think this is a way in which we can encourage our audiences to discover why contemporary art is relevant in relation to their life' [5.5]. Glam! was visited by 25,763 visitors (£134,981 in ticket sales). One man who described himself as an infrequent visitor visiting with his son said: `I took my son because he is into his music and all the way round we discussed art. What does that mean? What do you get out of that picture? For me it does change my view of art. It is interesting' [5.3].

WSA research was further disseminated to the public through Glam!'s wide national coverage, including in-depth articles in The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and discussions on BBC 4's Review Show and BBC R4's Front Row, [5.6] as well as in extensive international media exposure [5.7]. Further public engagement included Glamorama! (a Tate event chaired by Harris which featured Faiers in a panel discussion on the impact of glam on popular culture for 80 paying members of the public) and Glam! and the 21st Century Factory (learning events for 576 fifteen-to-twenty-five year-olds with contribution by Gilbert). Feedback suggested participants had fun, gained greater knowledge and understanding of the period, and that the event changed their perception of the museum's role. One said: `I had no idea such events existed!' [5.3].

The economic benefit to the Tate and the public benefits from Glam! were extended through the exhibition's tour to the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (13 June-22 September 2013). As announced in autumn 2011, it will then travel on to the Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz.

WSA's work with Tate on exhibitions and public learning has demonstrated the wide-reaching value of academic research deployed in partnership with museum and gallery curators, learning and communications specialists. This has benefitted their working processes as well as directly enriched the diverse publics who have visited these shows and taken part in related events.

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Cedar Lewisohn, curator until 2011 at Tate Modern / Head of Media and Audiences, Tate Liverpool To corroborate Dawson's activities at Tate Modern. For public feedback please see

5.2 Head of Learning, Tate Liverpool. To corroborate impact on Learning programmes and Tate staff

5.3 Feedback data on impact held at Tate Liverpool, contact Head of Media & Audiences

5.4 Head of Exhibitions and Curators, Tate Liverpool. To corroborate impact on exhibition development

5.5 Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool. To corroborate potential of research-based exhibition and learning

5.6 Daily Telegraph 11/2/13:

The Guardian: Glam Timeline 6/2/13, Mark Brown Review 6/2/13, Adrian Searle `Glam! at Tate Liverpool: through a mirrorball darkly,' 6/2/13, Noddy Holder 6/2/13

BBC 4 'Review Show' tweet regarding exhibition coverage: (n.b. programme is not archived on BBC website)

BBC Radio 4 Front Row', 7/2/13:

5.7 References in international media include:
GQ Italia [27/1/2013],
Vogue Italia [7/2/13],
The Times [Gary Kemp 26/1/2013, Will Hodgkinson 8/2/2013],
The Financial Times [Jackie Wullschlager 3/2/2013],
The BBC [BBC Breakfast 8/2/2013,
6Music 15/2/2013, BBC News Website In Pictures 8/2/2013,
BBC Radio Merseyside 8/1/13].

Other online manifestations include: The Huffington Post [both American 5/2/13 and British sites 8/2/13], and the tourist sites: and