The VS1: Embodiment Launch Event

Outside of Vernon Square campus

This event is hosted by The Courtauld’s Student Union, with support from the Research Forum, as part of Art History Festival 2023, organised by the Association for Art History.

The VS1: Embodiment launch event, to be held on the 22nd September, will celebrate the opening of the 2023 East Wing Biennial. The event will include guided tours of the exhibition, performance art pieces, and talks from the exhibition directors and curators. We aim to bring together students, alumni, and friends of the Courtauld to celebrate the past, present, and future of the East Wing Biennial.

Event Schedule

4:00 pm – Vernon Square opens for guided tours of exhibition

6:00 – Doors open to public

6:30 – Performance piece from Alex Free

7:00 – Life drawing class

7:00 – VS1: Embodiment introductory talks

7:30 – Performance piece from Finlay Thompson

7:45 – Self-portraiture talk on the Ruth Borchard Collection, courtesy of Piano Nobile, London

8:00 – Screening: Death of a Curator, Research Forum

10:00 pm – Event ends


The Courtauld – East Wing Biennial 2023.

22nd September, 6-10pm, The Courtauld, Vernon Square campus, WC1X 9EW

“The walls of the institution were completely bare, which is ironic considering it is an institution for the teaching of art history.”Joshua Compston

The Courtauld  had famously educated its students in classrooms hung with masterpieces by Rubens and Van Gogh until its move to Somerset House in 1989.  Dismayed by the bare walls of the classrooms, student Joshua Compston (1970-1996) established the East Wing Collection in 1991. Hoping to expose students to contemporary art vastly different from their studies, Compston brought artworks by artists such as Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, and Howard Hodgkin to the seminar room walls of the Courtauld on a two-year loan basis as the Courtauld Loan Collection.

Over the following two decades this became the East Wing Biennial, a student-led exhibition which proved a valuable contribution to the study of contemporary art at the Courtauld both as a practical exercise in curation and a way of enriching the learning environment. The Courtauld’s relocation of teaching to Vernon Square in 2019 and the cancellation of the Biennial due to the Covid-19 pandemic once again removed the proximity to artworks that Compston saw as integral to the study of the history of art. The walls of the institution were again completely bare, and the legacy of Compston and the Biennial became uncertain.

VS1, the first iteration of the Biennial to be held at Vernon Square, will celebrate the legacy of Joshua Compston, and once again bring Courtauld students into direct contact with contemporary art. Works across the campus have been sourced through a loan agreement with the Ruth Borchard Portrait Prize as well as an open call for artworks that explore the Biennial theme of ‘Embodiment’. VS1 aims to express the way that art can reflect and shape an individual’s experience of the modern world.

The artworks in the exhibition delve into the relationship between the body and self, exploring how contemporary artists use the body as both a subject and a medium for expression. The exhibition investigates the connection between our cognitive and physical selves, and how the body mediates our experiences and conflicts internally, with one another, and with the world around us, particularly as we navigate issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic, ageing, sexuality, technological advances, and climate change.

Embodiment also explores the mutability and transience of the human body. Artists participating explore the notion of transforming our physical selves to express our identities, or to rebel against social conventions. We invite the viewer to reflect upon their own body and the way it mediates and reflects their experience of the world, acting as a vessel for our experiences, emotions, and memories.

Accessibility Statement

The venue:

The VS1: Embodiment venue – Vernon Square, Kings Cross, WCX1 9EW – is wheelchair and step-free accessible. Wheelchairs can access all floors through the entrance ramp and lifts, and there are disabled toilets on the ground and second floors. The floor layout may potentially restrict movement for those with mobility aids due to some small exhibition rooms, and other rooms will host performance art pieces which will take up some floor space. Vernon Square also facilitates service dogs.

The closest tube stations are King’s Cross, which offers step-free access from and to the Underground, and Euston, which does not offer step-free access from and to the Underground. The closest National Rail stations are King’s Cross, St Pancras International, and Euston. All are step-free accessible to National Rail services.

The road immediately outside of the venue entrance is uneven with potholes that may be hard to navigate for those with mobility aids, however a gate on the pavement allows accessibility on a smoother surface. A steep driveway and parking area leads up to Vernon Square building entrance that wheelchair users may find difficult to ascend.

We offer disabled parking at our Vernon Square campus. Please book parking in advance by contacting our reception team: 020 39477 717.

The event:

The VS1: Embodiment introductory talks and the Ruth Borchard self portraiture talks are not accessible to those deaf or hard-of-hearing. We apologise to not be able to offer the accessibility requirements needed.

There will be seating available in Lecture Theatre 2 and some exhibition rooms for those who cannot stand for long periods of time. We will provide print-out brochures for the event with larger text for visually impaired people and those with dyslexia. Please request one on the night from reception.

If there are any further queries regarding accessibility please contact the Courtauld Student Union president:

If there any queries or problems on the opening night please contact Vernon Square reception: 020 39477 717

This event has passed.

22nd September 2023

Free, booking essential

Vernon Square Campus

This is an in person event at our Vernon Square campus. Booking will close 30 minutes before the event begins.