A joint Subject Specialist Networks conference, 21 – 22 February 2018

Venues: Tate Britain; National Portrait Gallery, London; and National Gallery, London

This joint conference examined the motivations behind exhibition programming, the practical challenges, and the future of exhibitions. For example, do UK museums have the in-house expertise to generate scholarly, audience-responsive, profitable exhibitions? How do they accommodate the demands of various stakeholders – curators, marketing and learning teams, audiences, and funders? And if the future is digital, what will audiences lose (and gain) by a virtual – rather than physical – engagement with museums and their collections? The conference panels addressed these and many other questions around the decision-making, delivery, and consumption of temporary exhibitions.

The conference keynote speaker was Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, and the panels were chaired by Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery; Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery; and Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain. The programme included panel discussions, private views, and time to meet fellow delegates at Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Gallery. 

Why Exhibitions 21 to 22 Feb 2018 – programme

Audio recordings of presentations:

Conference keynote address: Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries, National Museums Liverpool


Panel 1: Future Directions, chaired by Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery

Dr Ellen McAdam, Director, Birmingham Museums Trust
Temporary exhibitions: sacred cow or dead duck?

Dr Helen Pheby, Senior Curator, Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Beyond Boundaries: Art by Email

Emma Ridgway, Head of Programme, Chief Curator, Modern Art Oxford
Exhibition Curation: Democratising Art while Pursuing Prestige


Panel 2: Audiences, chaired by Alex Farquharson, Director, Tate Britain

Anne Stewart, Senior Curator of Art, Ulster Museum, National Museums Northern Ireland and Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial, National Museums Northern Ireland
How do we look at Old Master paintings? And what do we see? New exhibition strategies for Old Master paintings at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

Grace Todd, Senior Learning, Participation, and Interpretation Officer, National Museum Cardiff, and Nicholas Thornton, Head of Fine Art, National Museum Wales
Who Decides? Exhibitions, co-production and institutional critique

Jess Thom, writer, artist and campaigner, co-founder of Touretteshero
Bring on the Biscuits!


Panel 3: Exhibition Strategies, chaired by Gabriele Finaldi, Director, National Gallery

Julie Milne, Chief Curator of Art Galleries, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
Evolving Practices: Models of Exhibition Making at the Laing Art Gallery

Ruth Brimacombe, Oxford Brookes University, and Cathy Waters, Professor of Victorian Literature and Print Culture, University of Kent
‘Picturing the News’ in digital form: the curation of an online exhibition

Rosie Wilson, Head of Exhibitions, National Portrait Gallery, London (presentation delivered by Sarah Tinsley, Director of Exhibitions and Collections)
What makes a successful competition and what are the challenges?

This conference was a collaboration between the Understanding British Portraits professional network, the European Paintings pre-1900 network, and the British Art Network.

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