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RCA Arts & Humanities Talk: What's Next? Series – The Role of the Institution

17 October 2018 | 4pm – 5.30pm

Battersea, Gorvy Lecture Theatre

Although the nineteenth-century idea of the ‘cultural institution’ is near exhaustion in the west, the idea of ‘institution’ is flourishing in the form of monumental new museums and galleries being built in the emerging art markets of China and the Middle East. What new roles and thinking are these twenty-first century institutions generating today and can they support creative thinking and practice? Should museums aim to be agents of social, cultural and economic change (nationally and internationally), or cherished repositories of cultural histories and artefacts? Are bricks and mortar key to the idea and function of the ‘institution', or is the internet redefining and fostering more dynamic, creative and powerful new forms of cultural organisation and production? Whose interests does the ‘cultural institution’ serve?

About the Speakers

Emma Dexter joined the British Council in 2014. Over the past four years the department has presented more than 20 different exhibitions globally, the majority based on the British Council Collection, including a David Shrigley exhibition in Shanghai and Guadalajara and a Grayson Perry exhibition in Kiev, Istanbul and Sarajevo. Recent group exhibitions include The Art of Dissonance, Seoul, and Perceptions – a collaborative curatorial project linking five different institutions in the Western Balkans. As Commissioner of the British Pavilion in Venice she was responsible for Phyllida Barlow’s representation of the UK at the Biennale Arte in 2017, and earlier this year commissioned Cathy Wilkes to represent the UK at the 58th edition in 2019.

She studied English at Oxford, and has an MPhil in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute, London University. Her career as a curator has taken her from the Potteries Museum, Stoke on Trent, to Chisenhale Gallery, London, to Director of Exhibitions at the ICA, London, to Tate Modern in 2000 as a Senior Curator. From 2007–14 she was Exhibitions Director at Timothy Taylor Gallery, a commercial gallery in London’s Mayfair. Over the years Emma has worked with a wide array of British and international artists including Steve McQueen, Rachel Whiteread, Marlene Dumas, Bruce Nauman, Tacita Dean, Pierre Huyghe, Gabriel Orozco, Mark Leckey, Luc Tuymans, Alex Katz, Susan Hiller, Mark Wallinger and Lubaina Himid. While at Tate she curated Tate’s first ever dedicated photography exhibition, as well as Frida Kahlo in 2005.

Tim Reeve has been Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, since 2013. 

Tim takes a strategic and operational overview of all museum activities, as well as directly leading the divisions responsible for the V&A’s commercial and digital activities, exhibitions, FuturePlan, finance and resources, marketing and communications, security and visitor experience. He also leads the V&A’s partnership with China Merchant’s Group, which saw the creation of the new V&A Gallery at Design Society in Shenzhen, China, which opened in December 2017, and on the V&A’s wider international strategy.  Tim is also leading the development of a new ‘V&A East’ in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London, which will see a new research and collections centre alongside major new permanent gallery and exhibition spaces, as part of the East Bank cultural and educational legacy.

Before joining the V&A, Tim was Director of Historic Properties at English Heritage, responsible for the management of the 420 historic properties which make up the National Heritage Collection. 

This event has been organised the RCA School of Arts & Humanities. For more information, please contact Anne Duffau.


  • Victoria Walsh

  • Emma Dexter

  • Tim Reeve

This talk is convened by Professor Victoria Walsh