Gill Crabbe, FNG Research
The Ateneum Art Museum’s art historians have been forging unique links with academics at Coventry University through shared research interests. Gill Crabbe asked Professor Juliet Simpson about her collaboration with arts professionals internationally, when she was in Helsinki to give a lecture on Gothic Modernisms
The words renewal and reinvention have long been associated with the city of Coventry. Its great twin cathedrals – Gothic and modern – bear witness to linked legacies of past and present that have made Coventry central to a new international spirit of post-1945 British culture. In recent years Coventry University’s role in this has been pivotal as an engine of new thinking and creativity; it is therefore no surprise that the University emblem is the rising phoenix, archetypal symbol of rebirth. Juliet Simpson’s new appointment in 2015 to the Professorship in Art History and Chair of Visual Arts, a long-standing University strength, marks part of a new academic influx, destined to open the next chapter of the University’s development. As Chair of Visual Arts, Simpson begins a journey, challenging and dynamic, to put visual arts at Coventry firmly on the international map. Since her appointment, her professional dynamism has acted as a magnet, attracting a wide range of professionals to join her in realising her vision as part of a new Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
In a little over 18 months Prof. Simpson has energised growth, beginning the multi-faceted task of transforming Coventry’s former Department of Design and Visual Arts within the School of Art and Design (now forming part of the University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities), into a multi-themed operation with an expanded interdisciplinary, international research and cultural sector reach. ‘The idea was to re-energise the historical, the philosophical and theoretical side of the area and boost the connections that can be built between art historians, artists and designers with international museums and gallery collaborations,’ she says. This is no mean feat, given the historic demarcation lines that have existed throughout the professions between university-based art historians and museum-based curators; between fine art and applied art. However, Prof. Simpson’s vision not only crosses these disciplinary boundaries, but extends beyond Britain to establish international collaborations as pivotal to creating an interconnected and transnational visual arts research field, linking historians, curators and innovative creative practices through collaboration with academics and professionals internationally.
This is where Finland’s arts professionals, and in particular the research partnership with the Finnish National Gallery, come into the picture.
Featured image: Prof. Juliet Simpson at the Ateneum Art Museum, photographed with Väinö Blomstedt’s painting Francesca, 1897, on display in the ’Stories of Finnish Art’ exhibition of works from the Museum’s collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
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