Madeleine Kennedy is an independent curator whose practice focuses on feminist and anti-ableist exhibition-making. She is currently reading for an AHRC-funded DPhil in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the Ruskin School of Art.
Madeleine has varied exhibition-making experience, having held curatorial roles at the Laing Art Gallery, Hatton Gallery, Firstsite Gallery, and Tate Britain, and undertaken curatorial and research projects for organisations including the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, MIMA, Western Front Vancouver and ICI New York. She has also curated projects in collaboration with The NewBridge Project, Arts Council Collection, Guildhall Art Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery. From 2015 to 2017 she was a member of the inaugural Emerging Curators Group co-convened by the British Art Network and Tate. As a disabled curator, Madeleine is also passionate about increasing representation at board level in order to enable overdue change in the cultural sector, and was herself elected to the board of the Art Fund in 2020, becoming one of only 3% of UK trustees under 30. She now works with a number of charities to provide mentoring to young people from underrepresented backgrounds who want to pursue curatorial and governance roles, and was a member of the 2021 cohort of Clore Leadership’s disabled-led Inclusive Cultures programme.
Her research at the Ruskin, entitled Imagining Exhibitions Otherwise, uses conversation as a collaborative method to explore fundamental questions about exhibitions, centring the intuitions of artists, curators and activists to challenge unthinking norms in mainstream exhibition-making practice. Through this research and her independent exhibition-making practice she argues for the latent potential of exhibitions – when freed of limiting conventions – to be humane, omnisensory acts of worldmaking. This DPhil project forms part of Madeleine’s wider research at the intersection of philosophy and exhibitions, both in terms of philosophy’s potential to shed light on pressing ethical issues in curating, and exhibitions’ potential as an under-explored object of study and tool for philosophy. Previous projects have examined historic attempts to use exhibitions as an instrument of philosophy, and deployed her training with The Philosophy Foundation in methods designed to empower young people with no philosophy background to engage in philosophical dialogues.
Over the last 10 years Madeleine has curated over 25 exhibitions, from architectural commissions and VR projects to major art-historical loan shows. Her critically-acclaimed touring exhibition The Enchanted Interior (Guildhall Art Gallery and Laing Art Gallery) showed modern and contemporary work by artists such as Mona Hatoum, Hayv Kahraman, Dorothea Tanning and Francesca Woodman in dialogue with nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite and Orientalist paintings, with the aim of critiquing and subverting the popular motif of the interior as a ‘gilded cage’ in which women are confined. Exploding Collage: Nadia Hebson, Linder Sterling, Ursula Mayer (Hatton Gallery) addressed gendered blindspots in histories of the European avant-garde, working with contemporary artists to reckon with the resultant challenge of how to ‘exhibit’ work that no longer exists and recentre the work of women artists who expanded collage into immersive and ephemeral formats. Francis Bacon | Ellen Gallagher (Hatton Gallery) paired iconic oil paintings by Bacon with works from Gallagher’s Morphia series to draw out visual resonances and shared preoccupations with figuration, accretion, and transformation. Modern Visionaries: Van Dyck and the Artists’ Eye (Laing Art Gallery in partnership with National Portrait Gallery) assembled self-portraits by modern and contemporary artists such as Sarah Lucas, Chris Ofili, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Jane & Louise Wilson in an exploration of the origins and evolution of popular ideas of artistic genius. Madeleine has also curated commissions and solo shows by artists including Marcus Coates, Antony Gormley, Lawrence Kavanagh, Kate Liston, Toby Paterson, and Yelena Popova; assisted the delivery of commissions by Anthea Hamilton and Andrea Büttner; and led on the acquisition of major new works by Glenn Brown and Fiona Tan.
Publications, conferences and teaching
Recently published books include ‘Kelly Richardson: Pillars of Dawn’ (co-edited with Alistair Robinson, Kerber, 2019), and ‘The Enchanted Interior’ (Laing Art Gallery, 2019, funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art). Madeleine’s research and writing on exhibitions has been published in journals such as Stedelijk Studies and Architectural Research Quarterly, and she has contributed essays to artist monographs on Dan Holdsworth (Hatje Kantz, 2018), John Kippin (Kerber, 2018), and Chad McCail (Distanz, 2021). She has spoken on exhibitions and philosophy at conferences in Northern Ireland, Croatia, Portugal and Italy; chaired artist in-conversations; and delivered curator talks in-person and online for a variety of public galleries. She has also led group crits, given guest lectures for MA curating programmes, been a Visiting Researcher at Aalto University, and designed and taught courses on curating and art history for the Sarah Lawrence Programme at Oxford University.
Madeleine has a first-class joint honours degree in Art History and Philosophy from the University of St Andrews, and an MA with distinction in Curating the Art Museum from the Courtauld Institute of Art.