Ideas Depot; where art isn’t part of the curriculum. It’s all of it.

Chris Ofili, R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974 - 1993, 2013 © Chris Ofili; courtesy the Artist and Counter Editions

Ideas Depot; where art isn’t part of the curriculum. It’s all of it.

Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

Quietly, not after but during the Biennials, Tate Liverpool opened a new space. Between Tate Exchange (the space for artists to create) and Clore Studio (the space for families to engage), is an area of the gallery now dedicated to shaping learning.

Major works from the Tate collection have been brought out of storage, selected by primary school teachers to inform and enrich the curriculum.

In a time when engagement is being pushed out of every orifice of every gallery, to a point that it might actually be damaging some artistic programmes, this is a new take. One that doesn’t detract from existing galleries, or try to shape the curatorial outputs.

Ideas Depot, on the 1st floor of Tate Liverpool, pushes the potential to present art as the carrier of an idea. Alongside Salvador Dalí, whose work was likely chosen to engage students who will recognise his popular strokes, is work by Chris Ofili and Layla Curtis. And not their best known.

Chris Ofili’s R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974-1993 provokes clear questions about British identity today, and how, if at all, it has changed since 1993. Painted in 2013 – when the murder of Stephen Lawrence was just as relevant to conversations on hate crime as it was then, and is now – the work has a big job to do, raising those questions amongst primary aged students in 2018. How does Stephen’s name continue to do good? How does the work of Chris Ofili respond? What does the response say about the history?

I can imagine the class now, filling in my answers, and transcribing my own version of the work on the back of the worksheet. And I can imagine looking back at it twenty years later, feeling inspired to have had the opportunity to work in that way.

This new way of focussing engagement in ways that can make a difference, rather than spreading it thinly across entire galleries could be truly monumental, but we won’t know for some time, just how well it’s worked – so keep an eye on the space, and pop in during your visits, as it’s entirely open to the public, to see, and learn.