International Journal of Art & Design Education

Encounters with the Unexpected: From Holbein to Hirst (and Back Again)

Volume 30.1   2011



Learning through art in the museum is a Masters’ level module established in 2006 through collaboration between the School of Education at Roehampton University, London and Interpretation and Education staff at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. On completion of the module, participants were asked to reflect on how the experience had altered their perspectives on the collection and their strategies for teaching and learning in art and design. The aim of this article is to explore some of the themes that emerged from these interviews and from other dialogue between tutors and students on the module, themes that are then discussed within the wider context of museum and gallery education.
The article concludes by reflecting on broader notions of knowledge and understanding in the context of museum and gallery education. It is argued that the juxtapositions of historical, modern and contemporary art that have been a distinctive feature of Tate's curatorial strategy since 2000 have shed fresh light on older works in the collection and provide opportunities for art educators to reappraise the emphasis currently placed upon the interpretation of modern and contemporary work. It is suggested that developing knowledge and understanding of art is partly about embracing notions of ambiguity and mystery: that engaging with multiple and shifting interpretations of artworks should play a more central role in art education and that part of the process of engaging with art is the experience of not knowing and not understanding.