Stuart Morgan, art historian
Born in Newport, Gwent, Stuart Morgan (1948-2002) read English at the University of Southampton, subsequently completing an MA and the preliminary stages of a doctorate in American literature at the University of Sussex. As was recounted in Stuart’s obituary in The Guardian of 30 August, 2002, ‘he walked past the art school’s [Brighton Polytechnic’s Faculty of Art and Design] window and, attracted by the people he saw through it – unlike any he had met at the university – walked in, asked for a lecturing job and was given one’. His unique talent was revealed in the Department of Art History and Complementary Studies at Brighton where he developed his own particular style of teaching, criticism and waspish sense of humour. He also participated in the wider dimensions of ‘art school’ life, seen in his work with the Theatre Workshop, run by Frances Walker, which was important in bringing together students across a range of disciplines, as well as projecting the faculty’s public face.
His critical writings established him as a leading writer on the art of the 1980s and 1990s. Travelling widely in Europe and the United States, he was widely admired by many artists as a result of his sensitivity to, and careful interpretation of, their opinions. He started writing in 1977 for the recently founded magazine Artscribe, edited by the painter and critic James Faure Walker who encouraged him to develop his critical voice. Stuart took on the editorial role himself, a decade later. As well as freelancing for other well-known journals including Artforum and Frieze, Stuart wrote many telling catalogue essays and was also a curator of note, exemplified through exhibitions such as the Louise Bourgeois show at the Serpentine Gallery in 1985 and ‘Rites of Passage, Art for the End of the Century’, an exhibition co-curated with Frances Morris at the Tate Gallery in 1995. Amongst his editorial contributions was Provocations (1996), a selection of key writings by the English artist John Coplans, the co-founder of Artforum; an anthology of Stuart’s own incisive writings were brought together in What the Butler Saw: Selected Writings by Stuart Morgan, (1996).
Stuart’s standing in the art world was acknowledged in the 2002 memorial display dedicated to him in the History/Memory/Society group of collections at Tate Modern, curated by Frances Morris. In November 2003, several of Stuart’s friends and colleagues established the annual Stuart Morgan Memorial Lecture to mark the best in writing and thinking about contemporary art.