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Title: Beyond the Angel of the North : museology and the public art cityscape in Newcastle-Gateshead
Author: Farley, Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 7965 5236
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the ways in which museological 'collections thinking' can generate new knowledge of public art's material and cultural afterlives within a time of increased institutional and academic interest in the aftercare and everyday use of public art. Taking Newcastle-Gateshead (the home of the UK's best-known public artwork, The Angel of the North) as a case study, the thesis asks: what happens if we examine the public art cityscape through the concepts and management principles applied to museum collections? How might consideration of the commonalities and tensions between museum and city-based collections offer new understandings of permanent public artworks, and what is the relevance of this for their future presentation and management? In bringing these museological paradigms to bear upon public art production this thesis generates new understandings of the character of city-based collections and the dynamics of the audience-artwork encounter as enacted within the urban cityscape. The thesis addresses the relevance of 'collections thinking' to public art in four ways. Firstly, examining the temporal dimension, the Newcastle-Gateshead public art cityscape exists as an unintentional collection, one that has 'crept up' on the city over a 55-year trajectory of commissioning activity. Looking back into this timeline, permanent public artworks are shown as essentially time-vulnerable in both their physical materiality and their valorisation. Secondly, looking across the cityscape, a speculative typology of the city's public artworks is presented. This suggests that the Newcastle-Gateshead collection is representative of most forms of permanent public art practice, but can also be situated within a distinctive Northern-English culture of post-industrial artistic production. Expanding further on the spatial dynamic of collections, the thesis explores the comparative value and significance of public artworks both within and outwith their relation to geographically-rooted notions of site and place. In doing so it suggests alternative ways of constructing value around public art, particularly in relation to artistic authorship and long-term 'use-value'. Thirdly, 'collections thinking' engenders an original investigation of institutional interpretive practice around public art production. This analysis shows that iv Newcastle-Gateshead's public artworks are firmly mapped within an 'interpretive cartography' of artistic intention, materiality and sense of place. Finally, through an analysis of public art audience's in-situ 'arts talk' (Conner 2013) the thesis argues that public art meaning-making exists in the balance and tension between three factors: the potentialities of the artwork; audience-held domain knowledge; and crucially the specific 'in-the-moment' contexts of the encounter. In examining the post-commissioning phase of public art production through these cycles of interpretation and audiencing, and in reevaluating the relevance and potential of museological thinking for public art practice, this thesis offers an extension to the existing interdisciplinarity of public art research and a way of rethinking the long-term management and curation of public art.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) ; Newcastle University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available