Wolverhampton Art Gallery has one of the most significant collections of Pop Art in the UK outside of London. The collection is a key feature of the gallery’s exhibitions programme, which aims to promote and encourage a wider interpretation of the movement. Over the last two years, the gallery has been working to foster international partnerships through exhibitions, touring, and research on Pop.
In 2012, we recognised that Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, Poland had great partnership potential. A historic institution with strong connections to the avant garde tradition, the museum also has a large collection of (Polish) Pop works. To explore the idea of collaboration, two curators from the museum were invited to Wolverhampton in 2013 with support from the Contemporary Art Society’s (CAS) International Links Fund. We were able to have a face-to-face exchange of expertise and ideas, which led to the idea for touring our Pop exhibition Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman to Poland. The tour took place in 2014 and the experience has allowed us to establish practice guidelines for future tours.
This partnership gave impetus for the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund project, which enabled research into the Pop collection with a focus on 14 artworks gifted by Eric and Jean Cass (via the CAS). The gift featured three important European artists: Victor Vasarely, Julio le Parc, and Karel Appel. Their works were used to explore the idea of a Pop Art movement in Europe, forming part of the exhibition POP EUROPE!. We also developed our first app (POP EUROPE!) to accompany the exhibition, as a learning resource and to attract a European audience. International partnership working and research visits to the Netherlands and France were supported by additional Art Fund funding from a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant.
An ambitious and challenging project over the period of 14 months, the research has significantly contributed to our collections knowledge and helped us develop our digital and programming strategies. The new partnerships have been invaluable, especially the expertise we were able to acquire. We hope to continue with this world-facing mindset to demonstrate that regional museums can also aspire to working internationally.
Click HERE to download Dr Connie Wan’s presentation Making Europe Go Pop! from the WIRP Workshop (Midlands)
Dr Connie Wan, Black Art Curator (formerly Pop Art Curator), Wolverhampton Art Gallery