Workshop Session

Gary Sangster

Thinking through ‘Think Tanks’

What is a Think Tank?  What is a contemporary art Think Tank? Is it important?  Useful? How could it work? How could it fail?

An audience focussed workshop to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls of this under-utilised form of collaborative and incentive-funded research and advocacy agency within the practice, production, exhibition, distribution, archive, and critical and historical appraisal of contemporary art.

Consideration of the benefits and constraints of institutional and/or commercial affiliations for art research and art making, in comparison to the untapped opportunities and latent potential of pursuing independent collaborative ventures dedicated to realising tangible, specific outcomes in the public sphere will be central to this discussion. Some discussion of strategic methodologies for initiating and implementing artists and/or contemporary art ‘think tanks’ in dialogue with but operating outside the aegis of the powerful and pervasive systems and protocols of the University, the Museum, the Biennale and the Gallery, or the Arts Council.


Gary Sangster, newly appointed as Enterprise Officer at Bath Spa University, and Consulting Director of Drawing Projects, Bridge House, UK. From 2009–2017 a faculty member of UNSW Art & Design, Sydney, in 2016 he was also the Interim Managing Director of Arts Catalyst – Centre for Art, Science and Technology, London. He is a founding Director and member of Reframing the Curatorial Project,, Toxicity and Art and the Document research groups at UNSW and the University of Sydney. He has international experience as a curator, writer, and museum director in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the USA, curating more than 200 museum exhibitions. Key projects include biennial-scale national and international exhibitions, Perspecta (Sydney), The Decade Show (NYC), Urban Evidence (Cleveland), Mysterious Voyages, Impact, SNAPSHOT, (Baltimore), as well as The US Pavilion at the Cairo Biennale, and Promises, States of loss, Contacts/Proofs (Jersey City), Breathtaking (Boston) Breathing Time, Vital Signs (New Orleans), Out of this World, Tactical Imaginary (Sydney), and Sites of Incident.  He has organised international touring survey exhibitions by Mary Kelly, Kerry James Marshall, Howard Be Tre, and Genevieve Cadieux. His professional roles include: Chief Curator, National Gallery of Art, Wellington, NZ; Curator, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, NYC; Director, Contemporary Museum, Baltimore; Director, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art; Director, Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Director, Artspace, Sydney; and Dean, Art Institute of Boston, Lesley University. He has published extensively and received exhibition catalogue awards from the AAM. He is currently completing a PhD in curatorial research at SCA, Sydney University.