Facing the Future: Dr Maria Balshaw - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Facing the Future: Dr Maria Balshaw

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Friends Lecture Series

Facing the Future: Dr Maria Balshaw

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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  • Monday 6 March 2017
    PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
    6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

    Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN


  • Dr Maria Balshaw - Director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries

Organised by

  • Prof. Deborah Swallow - The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Martin Caiger-Smith - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Museums for a shared future?

Museums of the future should be places where people feel at ease – to encounter things that they may not know as well as things that they do, where they can explore things in the company of strangers. People should find the past, and its future, be able to bring in their own ideas and learn new ones.

Museums should be sociable spaces that quietly undo social hierarchy and inequality.  They should be curious, full of wonder and beauty.   This is more necessary than ever, to properly address the state we find ourselves in now – to cite artist Wolfgang Tillmans.

When one looks at why public money should be applied to museums, it has to be because it contributes to the public good, in clear and unambiguous ways and because those museums strive to speak to the widest constituency of people. If you ask what are the greatest challenges of our time – in Manchester or anywhere in this country – it would be intolerance between people, inequality within society, and increasing social isolation of people of all ages, especially if you are poor, exacerbated if you are elderly.   These are the 21st century problems that our nation’s museums should speak to. How can we increase people’s sense of belonging, their autonomy, their resilience and their enjoyment of life? 

Using the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery as a jumping off point, for discussion this talk will explore some possible futures for UK museums.

Dr Maria Balshaw is Director of the Whitworth, part of The University of Manchester, and the Manchester City Galleries. As Director of these two major institutions, holding internationally important collections of fine and decorative art of more than 80,000 objects, she is responsible for the artistic and strategic vision for each gallery. An academic by training she has worked as an administrator and Director within the cultural sector for the past 10 years. Alongside her role as Director of Manchester City Galleries and the Whitworth Maria is Director of Culture for Manchester City Council. In April 2014 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport appointed Maria as a board member of Arts Council England. Maria was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the arts in June 2015 and in July 2015, the Whitworth was awarded the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year.

In January 2017 it was announced that Maria Balshaw will be the next Director of Tate, succeeding Sir Nicholas Serota in this important role from June 2017.

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