Higher education

Interactive art

Systems thinking




Having trained, practised and exhibited as an artist I was able to get quickly to grips with curatorial responsibilities that cropped up when I joined the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA), as described below.  The biggest challenge lies in communicating not only with the owners of the works, but also with those for whom those works form a daily working environment.  After that the establishment of a properly organised database is key both to the long-term challenge of conservation and provision of metadata, and also to the day-to-day management of the disposition and protection of the works themselves.  The identification of qualified experts is also vital in prioritising conservation, particularly here, where there was a danger of the delamination of paint, and the spread of acid attack through paper and board.  But the most interesting and demanding aspect of the work was the research necessary in identifying the artist, the work, its makeup, provenance and value.

CNAA lobby c1990
The CNAA reception area, following refurbishment, in 1990.  The works on view are, from left to right: John Carter's High Planes, 1971; Bridget Riley's Study for Entice I, 1974; and Alan Reynolds' Dialogue, 1973.  The carpet was woven for the Council and the furniture is Mackintosh.

It was apparent when I joined the Registry for Art, Design, Art History and Performing Arts at the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) that the Council housed an important art collection.  The story of that collection and details of its contents can be found online.   However, the works had been framed to the earlier standards, had accumulated the patina of a busy office environment and had been neither properly catalogued or insured.  The Chie Executive, Dr. Malcolm Fraser, authorised a budget with which I was able, as honorary curator, to embark on a comprehensive refurbishment.  In 2011 the collection is hung in Senate House of the University of London and the British Academy.

When the CNAA was dissolved by Parliament the Open University took over its premises and some of its staff to establish OU Validation Services, and hosted the CNAA Collection for some 14 years.  Later, when I retired from OUVS I undertook a review through which I was able to establish that the University had acquired several hundred artworks over its first few decades.  Again, I assumed curatorial responsibility for the OU art collection, which was thoroughly refurbished and made regular new acquisitions.  Information about the OU art collection is again available online.