New Collecting Awards winners

We're thrilled to announce the first five winners of our landmark £300,000 funding
programme, which aims to nurture talented and dedicated curators.

Through the New Collecting Awards five curators will each be given a budget to pursue a completely new avenue of collecting in their museums in London, Liverpool, Durham and Edinburgh. The scheme will not only benefit the museums' collections, but will help the curators to learn at first-hand about the process of making great acquisitions, and contribute significantly to their professional development.

The five winners are:

Sara Bevan, curator of contemporary art at IWM London (Imperial War Museums)

Awarded £80,000 to build a collection of work exploring the theme of war and the digital.

Sara has worked at IWM since 2004. In 2013 she curated Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War at IWM North in Manchester, a critically acclaimed exhibition of the museum’s contemporary art collection from the Gulf War onwards. Other recent projects include the launch of the IWM Contemporary programme with Omer Fast’s film 5,000 Feet is the Best in 2013, an exhibition of works by Ori Gersht at IWM London in 2012, and Loss at the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast in the same year. Her book on IWM’s contemporary art collection will be published in March 2015.

She said: 'I am delighted to have been awarded this funding by the Art Fund. It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop IWM’s collection in a new direction, while broadening my own knowledge. IWM has a unique collection of contemporary art and this award will allow us to build on this, exploring how artists have addressed the multifaceted theme of war and the digital. Shifts in communication and surveillance, developments in technology and remote weapons, and the increase in cyber-attacks have all challenged our perceptions of conflict. I plan to investigate how artists are responding to these new circumstances in their work.'

Hannah Jackson, assistant curator of fashion & textiles at The Bowes Museum, County Durham

Awarded £60,000 to build a collection of French haute couture.

Hannah started working at The Bowes Museum in May 2014, following roles as a curatorial volunteer at Kensington Palace and a studio assistant at Janie Lightfoot Textiles. Previously, she worked in the publishing department at the Royal Academy of Arts. She studied a BA in History of Art and an MA in History of Dress, both at The Courtauld Institute of Art. During her studies she undertook volunteerships and internships at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Timothy Taylor Gallery and The Burlington Magazine.

She said: 'It’s incredibly exciting to have been selected for the New Collecting Awards by the Art Fund. The programme will open up my role as an assistant curator, offering me the chance to delve into an area of research that may otherwise have been left untouched. To have the opportunity to add French Haute Couture objects to the fashion and textiles collection, which will fit in so well with the history and DNA of The Bowes Museum, is a great privilege and one I’ll be very proud to undertake.'

Charlotte Keenan, curator of British art for National Museums Liverpool

Awarded £60,000 to build a fine art collection relating to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) culture and history.

Charlotte joined National Museums Liverpool in 2010 as the assistant curator of fine art. Based at the Walker Art Gallery, she later took up the position of curator of works on paper in 2011 before being appointed curator of British art in April 2014. Since her arrival she has curated several major exhibitions for the gallery and carried out new research on the collection. Her current research interests include Edwardian and early-20th-century British art with a focus on the artist Walter Sickert. In 2013 she was the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Scholar at the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, where she carried out new research on the Walker Art Gallery’s collection of drawings by the artist. Charlotte studied Art History and English Literature at the University of Sussex and completed her Masters in Art History there in 2009. Charlotte was an assistant curator at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery before joining the Walker Art Gallery.

She said: 'I am thrilled to have been awarded this funding, as it will really help with the work I am doing as a curator and to progress the social justice agenda of National Museums Liverpool as a whole. We are committed to representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) themes across the organisation, and this funding will enable us to build on the work we have already done in this area, by making real changes to the Walker’s collections and displays in particular. I’m really looking forward to bringing LGBT stories to our visitors through historic and contemporary art, opening up the collections to new audiences and allowing us to incorporate LGBT narratives into our permanent displays on a scale that has rarely been seen before.'

Mariam Rosser-Owen, Middle East curator at the V&A, London

Awarded £50,000 build a collection of contemporary applied art from the Middle East.

Mariam has been a curator in the V&A’s Middle Eastern Section since 2002, as the Museum’s specialist in the arts of the Arab World. She holds a PhD in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the University of Oxford, and has focused most of her work on the arts of the medieval Mediterranean, especially Islamic Spain and North Africa. She has also researched revivalism and collecting history in the 19th century. She is interested in the materials used to make objects, and how and why certain objects are made, and has written about ceramic production and ivory carving in Islamic art.

'My interest in historic craft processes from the Islamic World has always led me to wonder what craftsmen and women in the region are making today. I am eager to explore how traditional skills are being interpreted in contemporary ways, as well as collaborations with artists and designers. I am really grateful and excited that this Art Fund initiative will give me the opportunity to expand my expertise by starting to research this area, as well as the chance to make acquisitions and hopefully develop an exhibition.'

Sarah Rothwell, assistant curator of modern & contemporary design at National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh

Awarded £50,000 to build a collection of Northern European Modernist Jewellery circa 1945-1979.

Following a period of volunteering and working for the Lakeland Arts Trust, Cumbria, and undertaking a MA in Art Museum & Gallery Studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Sarah worked as exhibitions officer at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland. Here she curated a series of exhibitions including Spectacles: The Oliver Goldsmith Collection, Stories of Glass in Sunderland, and Dan Klein and Alan J Poole Collection, while also assisting on Interloqui, a major international exhibition for the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011; and Flagrant Wisdom, part of the artist Rose English’s series Lost in Music (2009), in which acrobats from Shanghai state circus performed alongside glassmakers from National Glass Centre.

'I am delighted to be the recipient of a New Collecting Award; this is a wonderful opportunity for me to create a research profile and collections development experience that until my employment with National Museums Scotland has been under-developed. The project itself is to focus on collecting, researching and disseminating Northern Modernist Jewellery with a particular emphasis on work designed and manufactured in Britain and Northern Europe. British Modernist jewellery has often been overlooked, unlike other British post-war studio movements such as glass and ceramics. I hope to readdress this by exploring the connections and divergences in terms of style, influence and materials between Modernist works, and establishing a network of curators, researchers and experts within the area of Modernist jewellery.'

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'Great museums depend on having great curators, so we’re keen to help support the profession wherever we can. The New Collecting Awards are intended to identify the star curators of the future and to support their collecting ambitions by giving them special acquisition grants, as well as offering mentoring and other assistance. We were extremely impressed by the quality of the applications, and by the presentations given by the 12 curators we shortlisted. We look forward to watching the five awardees in action – both through this project and in their longer-term careers.'

The five winners were selected from a shortlist who each presented to a panel of judges. The New Collecting Awards marks a significant new phase in the Art Fund’s ongoing commitment to supporting curators and developing museum collections across the UK. It aims to:

  • Offer special acquisition grants to help a new generation of curators hone their skills in developing museum collections and in buying works of art.
  • Help museums and galleries extend holdings into new areas, or deepen existing holdings in imaginative ways.
  • Promote the value of research-led collecting and foster curatorial expertise at individual and institutional levels, thus enriching museum practice over the long term.

The winners will also receive funding dedicated to their own professional development – to spend on research, travel and training costs to support their proposed collecting plans, as well as the ongoing support of a mentor, Art Fund staff and trustees.

New Collecting Awards is made possible thanks to the generous support of a consortium of funders, including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement, The Wolfson Foundation, The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, and contributions from private individuals.

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