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Installation Art Now

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art
30 November 2023
Convened by Jonathan Weston

Mike Nelson, Lionheart detail, 2023, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. Courtesy the artist and 303 Gallery, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt’s Gallery, London; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

To coincide with Mike Nelson’s Hybrid Scripts exhibition at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) on display between 23 September 2023 – 25 February 2024, Installation Art Now was a roundtable discussion exploring the current climate for producing, commissioning, exhibiting and collecting ambitious installation art. The roundtable discussion took place within the exhibition space on Thursday 30th November, 2-4pm and was followed by a lively Q+A.  

Speakers for Installation Art Now were Simeon Barclay (Artist), Persilia Caton (Collections Curator, Artangel), Tim Dixon (Deputy Director, Matt’s Gallery)* and Alona Pardo (Head of Programme, Arts Council Collection). Chaired by Jon Weston (Curator, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art). 

The key questions addressed were: 

  • Where does installation art sit within an increasingly immersive, experience driven cultural sector? 
  • Does installation art hold the key to connecting audiences to histories through storytelling, lived experience and cultural heritage? 
  • How can experimentation, ambition and interrogation be maintained against a backdrop of arts funding cuts and rising costs such as storage, transport and materials? 
  • How can public institutions, commercial galleries, commissioners and funding bodies continue to support ambitious installation art? 
  • Are artists being fairly paid for delivering ambitious installation art commissions both institutionally and within the public realm? 
  • Where does installation art sit within the current art market? 

Key takeaways from the roundtable included: 

  • Working at all levels of installation art offers many logistical barriers to overcome. There is a need to be committed, headstrong and resilient when working within installation art.  
  • Installation art is seeing a change as ‘immersive experiences’ redefine how, where and why installation art is being consumed, driven by commercial outcomes and the push to draw in visitor numbers.  
  • The funding models for large-scale ambitious installation art are changing which is impacting how institutions commission installation art and work with artists. 
  • Risk is inherent within installation art, both for the artist and the institution. Trust between the two is essential.  
  • The ‘burden’ of installation art, producing/designing the show, sourcing the materials, storing the artwork/materials and installing/reinstalling is often passed onto the artist.  
  • The importance of thinking about the commercial viability of working in installation art and how you can support your practice moving forwards.