A one-day conference is being held to explore the interactions between visual culture and the postwar settlement. The artists of postwar Britain were both beneficiaries and critics of the postwar settlement that lasted from the end of the Second World War to the election of Margaret Thatcher. State spending on the arts and arts training increased, and there were unprecedented opportunities for arts practitioners to intervene directly in the process of remaking modern Britain.
The shift away from the nineteenth century inheritance of private patronage influenced various aspects of British visual culture. New state funded institutions, such as the Design Council and the Arts Council, wielded enormous power in artistic life, as the new source of commissions and exhibition space. Artists now existed in symbiosis with the state, local authorities, town planners and the builders of new universities and galleries. Working constructively with state-funded groups, artists, architects and designers were deployed to remake and redesign local communities in the 1950s and 1960s. This interdependence also furnished new opportunities for critical appraisal of domestic and international politics by architects, designers and painters.
The new era of state patronage thus created a nexus in which the postwar settlement was both sustained and critiqued. In addition, it also helped to reconfigure the profession, throwing up challenges to the historic division between the ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ artist, as well as creating new arts bureaucrats and institutions.
Papers are invited that will investigate how artists and practitioners critiqued ‘consensus’ politics and the social and cultural certainties of the 1945-79 period, and how the structures of postwar Britain shaped artistic practice. We are particularly interested in proposals that explore the following themes:
• Artistic engagement with ‘remaking’ communities
• The impact of publicly funded bodies (including ACBB, Design Council and BFI) on artistic practice or collections.
• The ‘values’ of such bodies and their impact
• Amateurs and Professionals
• Arts policy
• Community Art
• Art and feminism
• Art and the politics of race
An edited collection based on the presented papers is planned.
The conference will be co-convened by Dr Natasha Vall (Teesside University) and Dr Matthew Grant (University of Essex), and will be held at Teesside University on 17 April 2014. Abstracts of 250 words, for papers of 20-30 minutes, should be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org by 17 January 2014
Dr Matthew Grant,
Department of History,
University of Essex,
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