Great collections: private patrons / public passions

Ten-week art history and theory course

Courses and Classes

17 January — 21 March 2018

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Part of our

Charles I: King and Collector

events programme
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Geoffrey Rush in 'The Best Offer', directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, 2013

Stefano Schirato © Courtesy of Pacocinematografica

Following the sold-out ‘Great collections’ course of spring 2017, join new leading academics and art world professionals for a unique perspective on the world’s greatest collections, and the private collectors who have contributed to them.

The notion that individual works of art exist as part of a greater collection which helps to determine and define them is widely accepted within the contexts of museums, public collections and exhibition spaces. However, many of these works have important links to earlier private collections, and individual collectors who painstakingly built them.

In recognition of this link, this course will consider the history of a selection of important and great public collections, their origins, and the impact that collectors have had, and continue to have, on the public domain. Collecting art is an attitude that reflects one’s tastes, a specific historical period, and a precise point of view. This course will reflect on the passions of private patrons who have contributed to the public domain through their collecting.

The importance of old master art collectors and their influence in the preservation of historical art and cultural heritage will be acknowledged, along with the examination of contemporary art collectors and their influence on the artists of their time, and new artistic production.

This course will also consider a number of key questions:

• Why is it important to consider the provenience of the objects included in public collections?
• What is the difference between an art buyer, collector and a philanthropist?
• How do collectors perceive their private collections?
• How can public institutions expose/display the intimate sense of the private collection?
• What is the role of public art institutions in relation to private collections?

This course provides a unique opportunity to learn about the origins of a number of great international art collections, as well as the role and impact of collecting art, and the process through which private collections become public. Did patrons have an original vision to make their private collections into a public passion, or is it the public that became passionate about the myth of unique and inaccessible collections?

The course will provide an historic perspective on the practice and process of collecting, which is relevant as much for institutions as for individual collectors today. Understanding how great collections start and evolve – how works are acquired, retained, displayed and eventually shared – is also critical for understanding individual works of art, as well as artists and art movements which have gained prominence in the historical narrative.

Individual sessions are taught by leading scholars, art world practitioners and professionals from both the private and public sphere.

The course will be broadly chronological and will include discussions around some of the greatest collections in the United Kingdom as well as internationally.

This course is available to book as a full ten-week course OR as two individual blocks of five weeks.

Weeks 1–5 (Wednesday 17 January – Wednesday 14 February)

Weeks 6–10 (Wednesday 21 February – Wednesday 21 March)

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

17 January — 21 March 2018

The Life Room, RA Schools, Piccadilly

6.15–8.15pm each week (registration from 6pm) £540 for full course, £320 for weeks 1–5 OR weeks 6–10. Includes all materials, light refreshments throughout, and a drinks reception at the end of weeks 5 and 10.

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