Neighbours do not always see eye to eye and there is no reason why they should. But when they do get on, wonderful things can happen. Today, two neighbours on the Strand, the Courtauld Institute of Art, which I Chair, and King’s College London, announce a landmark 10-year strategic relationship. This new vision for the arts at the heart of London represents a game-changer for Higher Education and the arts in the UK .
The Courtauld is both a Higher Education institution and a gallery, but it is much more. It is the world’s leading centre for the study of the history and conservation of art and architecture with a roll call of graduates including the current directors of the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, and the Royal Collection. King’s is a world-famous Russell Group multi-faculty institution, offering a breadth of research and teaching activity, and a vibrant student experience. The interdisciplinary opportunities presented by this new relationship will be of value to all: students, academics, staff, and the public. At a time when everyone is asked to respond to common challenges in areas of health, climate and geopolitics, the new interdisciplinary opportunities are highly-sought in contemporary academic life especially against rival institutions from Europe and across the Atlantic.
The Courtauld was founded in 1932 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to engage with art. In November, the Courtauld Gallery reopened following the most significant modernisation project in its history, providing a transformed home for one of the UK’s greatest art collections. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to visit and see it for yourself. The works of art displayed in the Gallery afford us a glimpse into the wonder of humankinds interaction with the world, in all its diversity. Importantly they remind us of the centrality of art to the human condition. This appreciation of the arts as a civilising agency and the value that the arts and arts education make to our collective wellbeing is at the heart of the new partnership with King’s. At a time when commitment to the arts is being questioned and funding is scarce, this represents an innovative and sustainable way forward.
For students at the Courtauld and King’s, this important development opens up new possibilities. For the first time, they will be able to take courses combining history of art with disciplines as diverse as economics and management, philosophy, music and international relations, further compounding their world-leading reputations. Moreover, two communities are about to open up to one another, allowing students access to each other’s facilities and networks.
Both institutions will remain independent, with their own unique character and history, but in one importance sense they will share a common vision of the future: that Higher Education institutions are stronger when they work in partnership. In many ways, the contemporary landscape discourages this approach, with research funding fiercely-contested and the challenge of attracting students year after year. The relationship we announce today speaks of a quiet self-confidence that there is another way to do business, that the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. The new relationship between the Courtauld and King’s will illustrate how true this can be.
John Browne is the Chairman of the Board of Governor’s at the Courtauld Institute of Art.