The Humboldt Forum: Lessons for Scotland and the world

Architectural model of the new building for the Humboldt Forum.

Architectural model of the new building for the Humboldt Forum.
Image: Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

Sometimes one is presented, unexpectedly, with visions of such ambition and worth that they leave you reeling. It seemed fitting on the first day of spring that we should be presented with one such vision by Professor Dr Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation at a workshop co-hosted by the Centre for Cultural Relations at the University of Edinburgh, the National Museums of Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Continue reading

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Collecting Contemporary: Collections as Conversations

Timepieces (2014), Katie Paterson Part of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection. Installed in the Edinburgh College of Art Main Building.

Timepieces (2014), Katie Paterson
Part of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection. Installed in the Edinburgh College of Art Main Building.

It was good to attend the Collecting Contemporary event in the University of Edinburgh’s Playfair Library on 16th February 2016 which included a preview of the upcoming Collecting Contemporary website, and coincided with both the inaugural publication of Affiliate’s new imprint and the opening week of British Art Show 8, showing in the adjacent Talbot Rice Gallery, Inverleith House and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Continue reading

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Thinking forwards in New York

Knickerbocker Club, New York. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Knickerbocker Club, New York.
Image: Wikimedia Commons (bit.ly/knickerbocker-club)

Two weeks ago (hot on the heels of Storm Jonas), at a dinner hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s North American Office at the Knickerbocker Club in New York, I was delighted to have the opportunity to share my sense of excitement at the enormous potential and energy which resides in our School at this crucial moment, five years after the merger of the schools of architecture, art and design at the former Edinburgh College of Art and the schools of architecture, history of art and music at the University in 2011. It seems apposite, as spring starts to send out early shoots over the Meadows, to re-boot this blog with some of the good news. Continue reading

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Forty years on: The past and future of design history

Chris Breward, Pat Kirkham, Catherine Whalen, and Jonathan Woodham speaking at the Open University in Milton Keynes. View on Open Arts Archive website

In May I was honoured to be asked to present at the conference ’40 Years On: The Domain of Design History’ at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes. The conference celebrated the launch of the pioneering OU programme “History of Architecture and Design 1890-1939”, an authoritative introduction to Modernism presented by Professor Tim Benton.

It was one of the first university courses to subject design and architecture to academic scrutiny in a context that went beyond the art historical. It was also echoed by similar initiatives in art schools around the UK, particularly Middlesex, Brighton, Manchester, Newcastle and the Royal College.

My polemic considered the continuing place of design historical work in our much-altered scholarly environment, and it generated some lively debate!

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Luxury Part Two: The Spaces of Luxury

The Shard from Tower Bridge. Image courtesy of Loco Steve (bit.ly/the-shard-from-tower-bridge), used under a Creative Commons License

The Shard from Tower Bridge. Image courtesy of Loco Steve (bit.ly/the-shard-from-tower-bridge), used under a Creative Commons License

Following the session in Florence last year, the Leverhulme funded International Network on Luxury and the Manipulation of Desire met for its final open conference at the University of Warwick Business School in the Shard, London last week. For three days delegates met to consider The Spaces of Luxury: Places, Spaces and Geographies from the Renaissance to the Present. Continue reading

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How do fashion cycles and design culture interact?

Panel L-R, Marloes ten Bhomer, Cher Potter, Lisa White, Joanne Entwistle, Chris Breward. Image courtesy of Leah Armstrong, University of Brighton

Panel L-R, Marloes ten Bhomer, Cher Potter, Lisa White, Joanne Entwistle, Chris Breward.
Image courtesy of Leah Armstrong, University of Brighton

Dr Leah Armstrong at the University of Brighton recently posted about an event I spoke at on the blog of Design Culture Salon, a partnership between University of Brighton and the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum.

I was chairing the discussion, entitled “How do fashion cycles and design culture interact?”, on 14th November this year at the V&A, and Dr Armstrong’s post recounts some of the main points made during the debate:

Fashion historian Professor Chris Breward, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art, offered an interesting route into this conversation by introducing one of the most fundamental questions that binds together the study of design culture and fashion cycles: time. Specifically, he suggested that fashion theory has something to offer design culture here, in its discussion of fashion as an embodiment of time and space.

Read the full post on the Design Culture Salon blog >

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Visiting Shanghai

Shanghai Fashion Week, 2014

If I was a much younger man looking for metropolitan thrills and a glimpse of a future self, I think that Shanghai might be my choice of escape. New York and Berlin (the destinations for my generation) seem so twentieth-century by comparison. Continue reading

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Luxury and Greed

View of Florence. Image by Artur Staszewski, used under a Creative Commons license: http://bit.ly/view-of-florence

View of Florence by Artur Staszewski http://bit.ly/view-of-florence (Creative Commons License)

Last week, as a member of the Leverhulme Trust International Luxury Network, I attended the latest of a series of Network conferences. This one was hosted at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at the Villa I Tatti and the European University Institute at the Villa Schifanoia in Florence. Continue reading

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Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Scottish Parliament, image by Kieran Lynam (bit.ly/scottishparliamentimage), used under a Creative Commons license

Scottish Parliament, image by Kieran Lynam (bit.ly/scottishparliamentimage), used under a Creative Commons license

For the past three days I have been attending the 2014 Edinburgh International Culture Summit, “Culture – A Currency of Trust” at the Scottish Parliament. I left the summit this morning feeling both a sense of loss (that the community that had evolved throughout the summit’s duration was disbanding) and a sense of hope and purpose. Continue reading

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