Hattie Spires

PhD Student

Thesis title: Revisiting Rhapsodies in Black: British art and the Harlem Renaissance, 1919 – 1939.

Supervisors: Professor Dorothy Price and Dr Elena Crippa (Tate)

Funded by: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

The Harlem Renaissance is recognised as having had a wider artistic and sociological impact on the United States and France but its transnational links with Britain have been understudied.

My research explores the cross-cultural exchanges between Harlem Renaissance and British artists, writers and activists in inter-war Britain. Could one experience ‘Harlem in London’ in the clubs and night spots as Rudolph Dunbar, the Guyanese composer, musician and journalist proclaimed in the Melody Maker in 1936? And if so, did the culture associated with the Harlem Renaissance extend to the art and politics of 1920s and 1930s Britain? What cross-cultural, transatlantic Black diasporic networks were in operation here? How did British artists engage with the movement beyond the racialised views that defined the relationship between colonial powers and subjects?

Using Tate collection works as a starting point and drawing on material in key archives, coeval newspapers and autobiographies, the project will trace the conversations, travels and connections between the figures from this time to re-examine the work through a new lens to reclaim the role of Black practitioners in the history of British modernism.


Ph.D. student, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2021 – present

M.A. Twentieth Century Art History, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Postgraduate Diploma, Arts Management, Birkbeck College, University of London

B.A. (joint Hons), History & Theory of Art and English Language, University of Kent

Publications and conference papers

Summer, Tate Publishing, 2020

‘A Phantom of the Road’ in Jacobi, C. (ed.) Van Gogh and Britain. London: Tate Publishing, 2019
Catalogue essay tracing the reception and interpretation of Van Gogh on Britain and British artists between 1937 – 1957.

Tate Introductions: Van Gogh. London: Tate Publishing, 2019

‘Contemporary Sensibilities’ in Crippa, E. ‘All Too Human’. London: Tate Publishing, 2018

Catalogue entries in Elliott, D. Art From Elsewhere: International Contemporary Art From UK Galleries. London: Hayward Publishing, 2014

‘Conception, Reception’, March 2005
AAH Conference 2005, University of Bristol.
‘Site and Translation in the Age of Squanto.’ Paper interrogating the increasing mobility of site-specific works.

Related work history

  • Editor-in-Chief, Immediations Issue 20, 2023
  • Curator, Festival UK 2022, with Tate National Partnerships the European Space Agency and Holition, 2020-21
  • Curator (mat cover), Tate Britain, 2019-20
  • Assistant Curator, Tate Britain, 2017-19
  • Assistant Curator, Hayward Touring, 2010-16
  • Curatorial intern, Prints & Drawings, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002

Grants and Awards

2022 – 2023 Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

2022 – 2023 Centre for American Art, Research Travel Grant to the United States

2021 – 2025 AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship