The New British Sculpture: Reviewing the persistence of an idea, c.1850-present

Henry Moore Institute

18 February 2011

Deadline: 30 June 2010.

British sculpture has been frequently singled out as an area of outstanding cultural expertise. Numerous major exhibitions and accompanying catalogues, including British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century (1981), Un Siècle de Sculpture Anglaise (1996) and Sculpture in 20th-Century Britain (2003) have subscribed to the idea of a distinct ‘strand’, ‘school’ or ‘family’ of artistic endeavour. This idea has been presented as having been rejuvenated by a cycle of Oedipal renewal in which successive groups of younger artists have been seen to overthrow the practices of the previous generation. Among British sculpture’s recent enfants terribles are the ‘Young British Artists’ of the 1990s, the ‘New Sculptors’ of the 1980s and the ‘New Generation’ sculptors of the 1960s who ousted such established figures as Moore and Hepworth. It is a story not only of ostensible generational succession, but also a story of a lack of continuity and a lack of recognition of the recurrence of similar claims for sculpture.

Submissions are invited that examine and question this accepted idea, looking at how ‘British Sculpture’ has been variously addressed and defined across a 150-year period and at how it has emerged as a construct at distinct moments and within distinct cultural contexts. ‘British Sculpture’ was also presented as ‘new’ and ‘young’ before 1945 and this session invites papers that focus on earlier 19th-century incarnations of this concept, asking how ‘British Sculpture’ became ‘new’ and different from what preceded it, and what roles novelty and youth played in shaping these national cultural identities. Papers that consider the ways in which critics, historians, curators, dealers and artists have employed these terms to promote and delineate practice are also welcome.

Convenors: Jon Wood (Henry Moore Institute), Ann Compton (Glasgow University) and Martina Droth (Yale Center for British Art). Please send abstracts of 300 words and a brief cv to Kirstie Gregory,