Tate Research Workshop

David Sylvester

David Sylvester (Undated photograph) 

Tate Archive

22 November 2013
Convenor: Martin Hammer

The activity of David Sylvester (1924–2001) as a critic, curator and art historian was prolific. His papers in the Tate Archive have only recently been catalogued and so the session attempted only a preliminary mapping of some of the art historical research issues his work raises. His trajectory over several decades paralleled profound shifts in artistic practice and in the operations of the art world. The extent to which Sylvester’s writing was informed by and contributed to these changes was assessed, as were his critical and ideological motivations, his relationships with artists and fellow critics, and his engagement with areas of visual culture beyond fine art.

The workshop also explored the ways in which archival research can enrich our understanding of Sylvester’s work. His papers at Tate contain copies of published journalism, exhibition planning documents, correspondence with artists and museum directors, recordings and transcripts of his celebrated interviews, as well as manuscripts of his books with extensive annotations. The workshop included informal presentations by Tate Archivist John Langdon about Sylvester’s papers and by PhD candidate James Finch about his examination of the drafts of texts by Sylvester on Chaim Soutine.

Martin Hammer