Collecting the New

Altshuler, Bruce
Princeton University Press

This collection of essays addresses both the conceptual and practical challenges facing museum collections in the twenty first century. Authors wrestle with reconciling contemporary acquisitions into permanent collections, considering the ongoing challenge of determining just what ‘contemporary’ art is. Questions arise such as when is contemporary; is it best to collect only living artists; established artists? The permanent collections of contemporary art embodies a paradox, argues Jeffrey Weiss of the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), as the older ‘contemporary’ art is pushed further into history and the collection of new art (of the present) is historicised by the identity of the museum ‘undeniably confers instant pastness onto present art.’ Other essays in the book address traditional narratives of encyclopaedic collections that are threatened by globalised trends of contemporary art that potentially rupture the established categories. Likewise, curators reconsider out-dated treatment of minority artists within collections which have been mistreated or misunderstood by past curatorial methodologies. One of the most practical concerns facing museums collecting contemporary art is new media, which can too quickly become old media. Technological restraints or poor understanding of technical art prevents the adequate collection of ‘new media’ art. Several curators outline their approach to collecting, displaying and conserving media art such as film, internet and other digital art.

Shelby Lakins

Curating Contemporary Art Collections in Scotland

What does it mean to bring works of art together in a collection? What is distinctive about this or that collection? How, and indeed why, should contemporary art be collected? Museum curators, private collectors, even artists themselves, are constantly re-visiting these essential questions. Such deliberations usually happen behind the scenes, but this website brings them to the fore, drawing on interviews with curators working around the country, discussions with professionals and individuals immersed in collecting, and a survey of current research and further reading.


The Public Collections section encompasses all those institutions that have actively acquired contemporary art since 2000 in Scotland, and includes detailed profiles of their collecting policies, as well as case studies of key works of art they have acquired. The Private Collections section is particularly concerned with private collections that have sought a public platform (this section will be developed later).  Enabling Collecting is a varied section, looking at how acquisitions are financed, how curatorial development and research is supported, and what obligations and challenges there might be for the conservators of contemporary art.  In particular this section profiles certain nationwide strategies for supporting collecting that have been launched since 2000. Futurecollection is a space for more speculative writing that imagines various futures for collecting and collections. The Reading Room provides reading recommendations and a portal to further research and resources in this area.


Kirstie Skinner

As a lecturer, researcher, and consultant working in the field of visual art, Kirstie has conducted conversations around contemporary art with artists, professionals, students and general audiences since 2000.


In 2007 she filmed interviews with the collections curators participating in Scotland’s National Collecting Scheme for Scotland.  A further series of consultations with Scotland’s visual art sector in 2010 enabled her to form Outset Scotland, a philanthropic fund that works with private individuals to support contemporary art commissions and the gifting of new works to museum collections.  In 2014, funded by Glasgow University’s Affiliate Programme, she embarked on an intensive series of dialogues for this website; and at the same time, began working with Edinburgh University’s Curatorial Fellow Kirsten Lloyd, to enable Masters students to engage with, and contribute to, this fascinating field of research.


Kirsten Lloyd