We speak to Roma Piotrowska, Curatorial Officer for Arts and Culture at the City of Wolverhampton Council about her role, Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s collection and British Art Show 9.
Can you give us a little summary of what your job entails?
I am the Curatorial Officer for Arts and Culture at the City of Wolverhampton Council. My job involves coordinating and shaping the programme of exhibitions and events across Wolverhampton’s cultural sites, including Wolverhampton Art Gallery (where I am based), Wolverhampton City Archives, Bantock House and Bilston Gallery. I spend most of my time working on the Gallery’s exhibition programme.
What has it been like working with a collection?
Ikon Gallery (where I worked previously) does not have a collection, so I was keen to gain this kind of experience. I couldn’t have dreamt of a more exciting collection to work with than Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s. Our collection is vast, and part of our strategy is to link it closely to our contemporary programme, which excites me the most. Last year for example, we organised an exhibition of works by Keith Piper, which originated from the fact that we have two of his works in our collection.
In the 1960s the gallery started to amass a significant collection of Pop Art, including work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Hamilton among others. We now have the largest collection of Pop Art outside of London. This remains a collecting priority. We also have a significant collection of work by Black British artists. Building on the social and political issues inherent in the Pop collection, the gallery chose to focus on art which responded to contemporary society, especially looking at the themes of gender, identity and conflict. All these themes have been important to me in relation to art since I started my first gallery job at Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk, Poland in 2005.
Do you have a favourite piece in the collection?
No, I don’t really. It is very difficult for an art professional to have a favourite work of art. There are pieces that I am proud we have in the collection because they are by artists whose practice I follow and admire, for example works by Yinka Shonibare, Richard Billingham, Keith Piper, Gillian Wearing, Larissa Sansour and Siobhan Hapaska.
Sometimes items that may seem to be less interesting, become fascinating in the right context. We have for example a collection of memorabilia connected to Royal Weddings, which normally wouldn’t be of my interest. We wanted to represent different stages of family life in relation to our Wolverhampton and Me exhibition, so we chose objects connected to Royal Weddings, such as stickers, commemorative beer bottles and ‘Charles & Diana’ brick. It was fascinating to learn more about those quirky objects and display them in a completely new context of an exhibition about family ties.
What are you working on at the moment? What are you looking forward to in the programme?
Before the Coronavirus outbreak we were working on our immediate programme but since the crisis started, the next few months are very much up in the air for us.
Very exciting and more in the future is British Art Show 9, which is planned to take place in Wolverhampton from February to May 2021. It is the most anticipated exhibition of cutting-edge contemporary art in Britain and it will be exhibited both at the Gallery and University of Wolverhampton. We are anticipating that the show will bring thousands of art-lovers to Wolverhampton from across the UK and beyond, putting our cultural offer firmly in the spotlight.
Find out more about Wolverhampton Arts and Culture here.