Towner Eastbourne partners with the University of Sussex to research gender imbalance in museum collections 

Posted on 5/08/2020

We are pleased to announce a collaboration with the University of Sussex to offer a collaborative PhD opportunity, beginning in Autumn 2020. The opportunity will allow Towner to facilitate an investigation into the histories of gender representation in regional UK galleries, using our Collection as a starting point.

The successful applicant to be awarded the Doctoral Studentship can be announced today as Haley Moyse Fenning, who studied for her MA at the University of Sussex, reading Art History and Curatorial Studies. Since then, Haley has worked internationally in public programming and curatorial roles, as well as in Brighton art galleries and studios. Haley is committed to broadening access to modern and contemporary art for audiences who are typically under-served.

Haley said,  “This opportunity aligns with my deep commitment to establishing a more inclusive, just, and accessible contemporary art world. I’m thrilled to have been selected and to be joining a regional museum which is already leading on this vital work. I see this opportunity not only as a collaboration between myself, Towner Eastbourne and the University of Sussex but as an evolving conversation with artist and audience communities, and one which I am honoured to facilitate.”

Image courtesy of Haley Moyse Fenning.

Primarily collections based, a key objective of the project will be to conduct a critical analysis of Towner’s repositories, examining artworks acquired from the moment of the gallery’s inception in 1923 through to the present day.  The project also builds on a recent surge of scholarly and curatorial interest in 20th century British women artists, collectors and dealers. The project has been designed to contribute to the forthcoming 2022 Towner exhibition Lucy Wertheim: Patron, Collector & Gallerist, which will provide a unique opportunity to examine Wertheim’s key role in a broad network of relationships with female artists and collectors, within the region, across the UK and internationally. 

This new doctoral project also builds on the firm partnership base between the Department of Art History, University of Sussex, and Towner Eastbourne. At the Sussex end, supervision will be undertaken jointly by Dr Meaghan Clarke and Dr Flora Dennis, while Sara Cooper, Head of Collections and Exhibitions, will be responsible for supervision of the project at Towner. 

Sara Cooper commented, “As Towner approaches its centenary in 2023, a deeper awareness and understanding of the role women have played in the gallery’s history will help to support its commitment to improved gender representation in future acquisitions, exhibitions and public engagement with the Collection. We are thrilled Haley will be joining us this Autumn and look forward to working with her on this important project. ” 

Dr Meaghan Clarke said: “We’re really pleased to appoint Haley, a former Sussex Art History and Curating MA student, onto this AHRC/CHASE-funded project which will facilitate innovative research in the award-winning Towner Eastbourne. It is a wonderful opportunity to explore the collection’s history and engage the public in new, exciting ways. An impressive array of artists and collectors will map onto local, national and international histories of gender.”