Research project to create new artwork for historic sites

Date: 30/11/2017

Gibside will house two of the commisioned works

Newcastle University has launched a £775,000 research project which will lead to the creation of four new pieces of artwork for three historic sites.

Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience is a three-year collaborative research project (2017-2019) investigating the value and practice of siting contemporary visual art in heritage sites.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the project is conducted by a team of researchers based at Newcastle and Leeds Universities, working in partnership with the National Trust, English Heritage, Arts & Heritage, The Churches Conservation Trust, the Contemporary Visual Art Network and Arts Council England.

A key part of the project will be the creation of four new temporary art commissions for three of the North East’s most distinctive heritage properties: Cherryburn in Northumberland will site one piece of artwork; Gibside in Gateshead, two commissions; and Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland, one. The commissions include new projects by award-winning UK artists, Fiona Curran, Mark Fairnington, Matt Stokes and Andrew Burton  

The new artworks will be presented on-site at the three heritage properties in summer 2018. As research case studies, each artwork will be appraised by focus groups including National Trust volunteers and first-time visitors to heritage properties. The artists themselves will work with the research team to explore how their creative process is challenged by working with new partners in the heritage sector.

Professor Andrew Burton, from Newcastle University, is leading the project as principal investigator. He will also be developing one of the case study artworks at Gibside.

Speaking about the project Professor Burton said: ‘The three heritage sites provide a rich foundation upon which artists will develop ideas and new work. We are delighted to be working with the National Trust, English Heritage and the Churches Conservation Trust on such an important and exciting research project.”

The aim of the research is to test how contemporary art sited in heritage properties can change the experience of visitors, how it impacts on heritage organisations, including their staff and volunteers, and how it can change the working practices and professional lives of artists.

Bold claims are often made by funding agencies and heritage organisations for the value of commissioning contemporary art – but they have never been rigorously tested. The research will be important in guiding future investment in the arts.

The research will also map the current ‘landscape’ of contemporary art in heritage sites, investigating its geographical spread within England and Wales, and the network of artists, curators, sites and organisations involved.

The project will be documented through a website which will build into a rich resource for curators, the public, artists, students and researchers who want to find out more about the production and consumption of contemporary artworks commissioned for heritage locations.

An exhibition at the newly refurbished Hatton Gallery at Newcastle University and a major conference is planned for 2019 that will include work and presentations from all the commissioned artists.

For more information about Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience please visit the project website http://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe

For more information, contact:
Andrew Burton, andrew.burton@newcastle.ac.uk,
Judith King, Judith.King@newcastle.ac.uk;
Rebecca Farley, Rebecca.Farley@ncl.ac.uk

Notes to editors

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. You can find out more information via www.ahrc.ac.uk or following us on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council

For more information about AHRC, our research and our impact see: www.ahrc.ac.uk

Commissioned artists biographies:

Andrew Burton is a visual artist and Professor of Fine Art at Newcastle University. His work situates sculpture in relation to landscape and architecture. His engagement with the narratives of place emphasises the use of materials and processes. He works with materials as various as bamboo, clay and cow dung and has developed projects collaboratively, working alongside artisans and craftspeople in India and East Africa. His work has won international awards, including Gold Prize at the KOCEF biennial in South Korea in 2015.

Fiona Curran is an artist whose work explores the poetics and the politics of landscape through the making of artworks for exhibition, writing and site-related public commissions. She holds a PhD from the Slade School of Fine Art and is a Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. Fiona’s work has been exhibited internationally and her public commissions include works for Kielder Art & Architecture, Northumberland; Art Across the City, Swansea; The Royal London Hospital; and Tatton Park, Cheshire.

Mark Fairnington is Reader in Painting at the University of the Arts, London. His work is based on museum collections and a visual examination of the idea and image of the specimen. Mark has worked with the Imperial War Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum, the Horniman Museum and the Wellcome Collection. In 2002, he received funding from the Wellcome Trust to visit the rainforests of Belize with the biologist Dr George McGavin, from Oxford University. Recent exhibitions include: Fabulous Beasts, was mounted at the Natural History Museum in 2004; Unnatural History, 2012, a retrospective at the Mannheim Kunstverein, Germany; and Collected and Possessed at the Horniman Museum in London 2016.

Matt Stokes is an artist whose works begin with an immersive research process that explores the history and social structures of place, resulting in the production of films, installations and events. Collaboration lies at the centre of his works’ formation and philosophy, often working directly with people from the communities where the work will be shown. Stokes has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally, including solo exhibitions at: Matt's Gallery, London; CAAC, Seville, Spain; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead); Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany; and De Hallen, Haarlem, Netherlands. Matt is represented by Workplace Gallery, London/Gateshead and Markus Lüttgen, Cologne.

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