Science fiction and the arts

In July, I wrote a short introduction to the cataloguing work I have been doing with the collection donated by Professor Sir Alan Bowness and the insights from the donor’s own notes. After cataloguing and skimming through more of the collection, I found an enjoyable and unexpected theme amongst the collection of exhibition catalogues: science fiction & fantasy.

The out of this world cover of Bowness.b.471

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Annotations and Tate history in the Bowness Collection

In March 2021, I began a secondment in the Collections & Academic Liaison department. A major component of my job was to continue the work of cataloguing the exhibition catalogues that belonged to the late Professor Sir Alan Bowness (donation arranged by Sophie Bowness). Sir Alan was head of the Tate Gallery from 1980 to 1988, he was personally connected to Barbara Hepworth and other artists, and laid the foundation for the Tate St Ives, among many other accomplishments.

The Bowness Collection is not only important and interesting in terms of the individual items of the collection, but in the way it reflects the art market and the direction of the Tate Gallery’s acquisitions. The collection contains many smaller catalogues, view cards, exhibition posters, and other ephemera which are often inserted in accompanying catalogues. Going through these exhibition catalogues I have gained insights into the world of gallery openings, blockbuster exhibits, and contemporary art.

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Some lockdown-era donations

Our department, Collections and Academic Liaison, works on the lion’s share of donations of books made to the University Library.  Since our numbers in the library building have had to be kept very low since mid-March last year, our focus in the office has chiefly been on cataloguing new bought books, but this post mentions a few donations that we have been able to process recently. Continue reading

A small update on the Bowness collection


In an earlier blog post on this subject, my colleague Mel explained that Professor Sir Alan Bowness had generously donated several thousand items from his personal library, mainly consisting of exhibition catalogues and related ephemera such as private view cards. Slowly but steadily, these items have been making their way into iDiscover as we work through the collection. In this blog post, I’ll talk about the slightly smaller c size catalogues (between 22 and 25 cm in height) that I’ve been working on since last autumn (classified under Bowness.c.), but many of the larger catalogues (sizes a and b) have also been catalogued and are available to browse under the Bowness classmark.

It is an eclectic collection of catalogues, documenting the exhibitions of sculptors, etchers, woodcut and linocut artists, installation artists, pop artists and painters, mostly from the 1980s (when Sir Alan was Director of the Tate), 1990s and 2000s. The exhibitions are largely located in the UK (many in London and St Ives, Cornwall, as you might expect), but there are also numerous exhibitions from further afield – including several at the André Emmerich Gallery in New York and Phillip King’s 1997 sculpture show at the Forte di Belvedere in Florence (Bowness.c.49).

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Barbara Hepworth books and the Bowness collection

One of our department’s significant responsibilities is modern donated collections.  Our blog has chiefly focused on such collections in European languages, but this post looks at one largely in English – the collection of Professor Sir Alan Bowness, former Director of the Tate.  Recent arrivals in the Bowness collection include items from the library of Dame Barbara Hepworth.  These came to us with the aid of Sophie Bowness, the art historian and maternal granddaughter of Dame Barbara.

Hepworth’s signature in Bowness.a.1012

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