Learning After ‘New Institutionalism’: Democracy and Tate Modern Public Programme

Hodby, Alexandra Jane. 2018. Learning After ‘New Institutionalism’: Democracy and Tate Modern Public Programme. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the failure of the curatorial discourse of ‘New Institutionalism’ in relation to the Public Programme at Tate Modern. It argues that New Institutionalism, despite being unable to describe the complexity of art organisations, nevertheless recognised the importance of the latter as an active part of democracy. In the course of its investigation, the thesis establishes a unique history of Public Programming at Tate Modern and shows how learning activities in Tate Modern continued to deploy the values of New Institutionalism (in particular, those of dialogue and participation) long after its failure and decline.

By developing an understanding of Tate Modern's Public Programme beyond the oppositional politics of New Institutionalism, the thesis seeks also to develop a more complex analysis of democracy in relation to art museum politics. In so doing, it explores practices of power and authority in the art museum and considers the importance of the museum in relation to democratic citizenship and community, arguing that an art museum is the agent of a more complex learning about the nature and politicisation of ‘the democratic’. Similarly, by drawing attention to the public spaces of the art museum, and by engaging with urgent issues of openness and publicness, the thesis investigates the site-specificity of museum practices after New Institutionalism. Finally, the thesis argues that Tate Modern Public Programming performs a role in democratic society that moves beyond learning about art and towards a reimagining of democracy itself. Activities in an art museum, it claims, are not models for democratic society, but rather, they represent democracy in action, evidencing a complex and potent site where issues including politics, community, control and creativity are at stake.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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This is an edited version of the thesis, with images removed for reasons of third-party copyright.


Tate Modern, museums, galleries, learning, democracy

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31 May 2018

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Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2018 13:32

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:12



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