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Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art sees itself as a ‘useful’ museum, an institution that aims to have a social function, repurpose art as a tool and promote creativity for everyone. It wishes to have an influence on society, taking a leading role in addressing current issues within politics, economy and culture both in Middlesbrough and beyond, and contributing to change.
With this civic agenda, the institution’s programme examines themes such as housing, migration, inequality, regeneration, and health through integrated exhibitions, learning activities, events, projects and community-focused initiatives. Exploring education, activism and making, and reaching out to multiple constituencies, it is becoming a public site – open and accessible, diverse and inclusive.
Middlesbrough’s collection, housed by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, encompasses art and craft from around 1900 to the present day, currently holding around 2,250 works. Its strengths are post–Second World War British art, twentieth-century British ceramics and European contemporary jewellery.
The basis of the collection is work inherited from the Middlesbrough Art Gallery and the Cleveland Craft Centre, which closed in 2003, and the Cleveland Gallery, which closed in 1999. Whereas these holdings were previously distributed across these three venues, they have been brought together with the launch of the institution in 2007.
New Collection Gallery at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
In 2017, ten years after its opening, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art is putting the collection at the forefront of its programme, making it from this point onward a permanent basis of its exhibitions. A new gallery will feature a wide range of works made by local, national and international artists across the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Building the Collection Gallery with the Community
The mode of operating derived from the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art’s new vision provides the impetus for a reimagining of its collection development and presentation strategies. The institution now wants its meaning to be defined by its constituencies, asking people what it can do for them. This enables it to understand the questions at stake and seek solutions to immediate local concerns in the framework of pressing international matters – for example, the effects of globalisation on the Teesside economy and the ‘refugee crisis’.
Regarding the collection, the institution is looking to achieve this by relating its content to the interests and history of Middlesbrough as well as embedding it more comprehensively in the perception and affection of the locality. Both intentions suggest working with different groups to broaden the curatorial voice heard through it, particularly in terms of selection of works and their interpretation.
The institution wishes to set up a programme that puts its collection to use towards audiences’ self-empowerment and collective agency. Through a series of active dialogues, displays will be arranged between curators (from both the exhibitions and education departments) and visitors. This will offer everyone an opportunity to interact with works through a variety of approaches – for example, considering how they can be employed for teaching or can serve as a stimulus for making.
View the collection online here.