The Inspiring Internationalists Project

Newcastle University & Hans Abbing

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Hans Abbing is an artist and an economist (Professor of Art Sociology, Amstterdam Univeristy). He is the author of Why Are Artists Poor? (pub Amsterdam University Press).

Hans was invited to Newcastle by Tyne & Wear Museums and Newcastle University. His hybrid background of artist and economist made this a very valuable visit involving working with students, linking into research and visiting a range of galleries in the city.

The Newcastle art scene was new to Hans so we did a series of visits so he could quickly build a picture of it. Over two days Hans and David Butler from Newcastle University visited:

Hatton Gallery (one of the oldest galleries in the city run by Tyne & Wear Musuems and Newcastle University)

Globe Gallery (independent space with two venues in Newcastle and North Shields established eleven years ago)

Isis Arts (independent artists led organisation focusing on digital arts and education)

Laing Gallery (Newcastle Municipal Gallery run by Tyne & Wear Museums – houses a collection as well as running temporary exhibitions)

Waygood Gallery and Studios (independent artist run space undertaking a massive rebuild in the city centre which will provide a significant studio and gallery complex)

Gallery Glue (small independent space set up a year ago by recent graduates)

Star & Shadow Cinema (independent artist led and volunteer run space focusing on cinema but also programming music and exhibitions).

This is a diverse and good range of organisations in Newcastle (though only a small slice of what is going on) and it included the opportunity to meet both artist and curators. Some themes emerged in the discussions: audiences, funding, working with volunteers and this proved really useful in working with students and linking into research

Working with students

Hans did an open lecture at Newcastle University on Why Artists Are Poor? (attended by students and the public) and a seminar with students focused around his research on audiences and funding (see attached paper). He also did tutorials with students. The lecture programme has a different grouop of student attached to it eah week to research the speaker, lead on questions and on the blog site ( One blog comment is: β€œThe idea that making money and retaining integrity are mutually exclusive is unique to the arts. This suits the art industry very well and as long as artists foster this attitude the joke is on them.”

Linking with research

Newcastle University is currently undertaking research into the Developing Sustainable Business Models in the Cultural and Creative Industries. Funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) this is a joint research project between the Business School, Culture Lab, Fine Art and Northern Cultural Skills partnership. We set up a research seminar at Culture Lab involving researchers and people working in the sector (artists, curators, funders, policy makers – including people we visited during his visit) to examine the question Why Are Artists Poor? This was extremely useful for our research project and we intend to keep contact with Hans.

The future

There has obviously been a valuable visit for all the reasons outlined above. But what is particularly interesting for the future is that Hans is supervising a PhD student at Northumbria University (Jolanda Bosch) and will be regularly visiting Newcastle so we have the opportunity to maintain contact.

David Butler

Comment by David Butler

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