Past Events

The Paul Mellon Lectures: Iwona Blazwick, Director of Whitechapel Gallery

Lecture – Iwona Blazwick

  • 17 November 2021
  • 5:00 – 6:30 pm
  • The fourth of six lectures on the topic of The Museum and Gallery Today, part of the 2021 Paul Mellon Lectures.
  • Online

What Are Collections Good For?

The accumulation of cultural artefacts, books, plants or animals is a characteristic of nearly all civilisations. We may understand them as symbols of power and wealth, or find in them a site of veneration and ritual. Certainly they are centres of research and connoisseurship. For artists, entry into an art collection is an endorsement – a means of conserving work for posterity – and, critically, it’s a livelihood. Yet in the twenty-first century the collection has manifested itself in unprecedented and unexpected modes. Whether as an arena for protest or as a work of art, collections are being taken on some intriguing new adventures. This talk explores some of their most recent iterations and asks, at a time when capitalist excess, its extractive procedures and exorbitant costs are under scrutiny, what are collections good for?

Established in 1994, this lecture series was named in honour of Paul Mellon (Yale College, class of 1929), the philanthropist, collector of British art, and founder of both the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) in New Haven and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (PMC). Co-organised by the two institutions, these biennial lectures have traditionally been given by a specialist in British art, first at the National Gallery, London, and again at the YCBA in New Haven.

This year’s series, entitled The Museum and Gallery Today, is exclusively online and features individual talks from some of the world’s most distinguished museum and gallery directors. The lectures are presented as free live webinars. Registration is required.

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulder portrait of Iwona Blazwick

    Iwona Blazwick is Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, London since 2001 and is a curator, critic and lecturer. She was formerly at Tate Modern and London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts as well as working as an independent curator in Europe and Japan. Blazwick is series editor of Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Documents of Contemporary Art. She has written monographs and articles on many contemporary artists and published extensively on themes and movements in modern and contemporary art, exhibition histories and art institutions.