Excavating contemporary art education

Tracing the history of Fine Art Critical Practice at Brighton


Curated by Naomi Salaman and Sue Breakell


Atrium Gallery, Grand Parade, University of Brighton

4-29 April 2019


Opening event as part of the Association for Art History Annual Conference

Saturday 6th April 5-7pm

All welcome




John Hilliard From and To (16mm, 3.35 mins 1971/2019)


Excavating contemporary art education presents an ongoing project to build an archive documenting the genesis and development of Brighton’s Fine Art Critical Practice (FACP) degree course, situating it in the context of British art school education post-1960.


The origins of FACP lie in the conceptual art practices that emerged in the late 1960s, in the wake of the Coldstream report which restructured art education, and in the subsequent tumult of student protests and occupations of 1968. In 1962 a new DipAD in Fine Art (Painting) was established and a new purpose-built art school building was being built at Brighton College of Art. In 1971 fine art students working with what were then seen as ‘alternative media’ such as film and photography set up a separate studio space, supported by teaching staff such as John Hilliard, Bruce McLean, David Dye and Roy Grayson. The studio became known as Experimental Studies, then Alternative Practice, and subsequently Critical Practice.


Although similar courses developed at other art schools up and down the country, FACP remains the longest running experimental fine art course and continues to reinvent itself within changing political and educational climates.  The FACP Archive Project sketches a social history of the cultural and institutional contexts of the emergence of the course in 1971 through the changes in the structure of Higher Education and funding cuts, until 2010/11 when the direct teaching grant for arts subjects from central government was withdrawn amid a general acceleration of austerity measures.  Against this backdrop of cuts, privatisation and restructuring, the history of this art course spans an important era of contemporary art and art school ‘mythology’, the emergence of new practices, theories and research methods, new politics of the image, and new pedagogies.


With thanks to The Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; the University of Brighton Design Archives, where the FACP Archive is held; John Hilliard; Mick Hartney; Gill Scott; and to the community of staff and students, past and present, of Fine Art Critical Practice.


Graphics by Emma Deguara and Nazia Tamanna from archive sources.



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