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Title: Artistic legacy and patrimonial knowledge : a case study of Barbara Hepworth at Tate
Author: Bonett, Helena
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 6141
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis argues that artists' legacies are not fixed entities with circumscribed arenas of knowledge but are in constant flux and in continual contact with diverse epistemologies and ontologies. The legacy of the British modernist sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) at Tate serves as the case study for this research in its exploration of questions of value formation and knowledge production in relation to artistic legacy and its interpretation and mediation within a museological context. This research explores these questions by means of investigating the specificities of Hepworth's legacy - both her 'cultural legacy' in terms of how she is commonly understood and her 'patrimonial legacy' in terms of the objects and rights she bequeathed. In identifying the ways in which the authoritative construction and mediation of the patrimonial legacy impacts upon the received understanding of Hepworth's cultural legacy, the thesis argues that this patrimonial legacy also contains within it the ambiguity, alterity and complexity that point towards alternative ways of knowing and valuing. As this research argues, Hepworth's legacy is framed by an authoritative and dominant narrative that has led to it becoming naturalised and unquestioned. As an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership held with Tate and the Royal College of Art and taking place at a pivotal moment in Tate's role in the shaping of Hepworth's legacy, the need for a new methodological approach was particularly pressing. The method used in this research is designed to provoke and instigate change within understandings of Hepworth's legacy. More specifically, it is formulated through a practice-led, curatorial research enquiry into an object of her patrimony - a stone-carving chisel from the preserved studios at the Tate-managed Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, Cornwall. Bringing this tool out of this static framing, the research reframes the tool to become the focus of discursive discussion and object-handling at displays and events at Tate St Ives and Tate Britain. In so doing, the research asks: How can a curatorial research methodology serve to disrupt the established narrative of Hepworth's legacy and what new knowledge and value is subsequently revealed? How is value formed and how can it be reformed differently? As the thesis demonstrates, Hepworth's legacy contains within it both a formalised, authoritative, historical motivation and mediation (constructed and naturalised through art-historical and museological methods), as well as a tacit, discursive and changeable approach, as found most pressingly in the irregularities and ambiguities of her material practice and the presence of this within the museum context. The former contributes towards the key problem of Hepworth's legacy - its appearance as being fixed, unambiguous and naturalised - while the latter provides the opportunity for reevaluation and, ultimately, for change. In the situated institutional context of Tate, therefore, this project's expansive, practiceled curatorial research method breaks up the homogeneity of the museum's traditional and conventional systems of inherited knowledge and, in so doing, both recognises the way in which its 'patrimonial knowledge' has shaped the dominant reality of Hepworth's legacy, while also opening out that legacy to the multiple worlds it actually functions in and connects with.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Curating ; Galleries (display spaces) ; W130 Sculpture