The British Art Network was established in 2012 by Tate, prompted by an invitation from MLA (The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) to develop one of the newly-funded Subject Specialist Networks (SSNs). It was initially conceived to maintain a research base and build scholarly capacity in the museum sector and celebrate a shared national collection of British art.
The foundation members of the British Art SSN included the organisations which were part of the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Great British Art Debate and which have significant holdings of British art: Museums Sheffield, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. With the support of Arts Council England (ACE), BAN organised workshops and conferences that connected curators and collections from around the UK.
Since 2015 BAN has awarded annual bursaries to support research activity led by members. To date, BAN has supported 17 research groups (some running over several years) and a total of 38 emerging professionals through its Emerging Curators Group, as well as an array of seminars, workshops and conferences. While continuing to connect curators working with collections of British art, at every scale and in many different contexts, BAN’s programme and activities have changed as ideas and practices around British art curating have shifted. The membership now includes many academics, artist-researchers, conservators, producers and programmers working independently as well as in organisations, and internationally as well as in the UK.
In 2018 the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art became a partner host of the British Art Network along with Tate. With continued support from Arts Council England (ACE), this partnership has enabled BAN to expand significantly and develop into a network which increasingly reflects the range and variety of curatorial work in British art today. Now approaching its tenth anniversary, BAN is renewing its commitment to fostering critical exchange in the theory and practice of British art curating and communicating the continuing public value of collections and curatorial expertise.