Skip to content

Gathering of Strangers: Why Museums Matter - Maria Balshaw

£18.99 Regular price
Unit price

Written by Director of Tate Maria Balshaw and previous director of the Whitworth, this book is a powerful, timely and thought-provoking exploration of the transformative role of the museum – and of art – in society today.

As the world adapts to the consequences of a global pandemic, museums continue to experience unprecedented disruption and change. At the same time, there is a growing debate and dissent over what museums are for, who they speak to and what the histories, objects and ideas they are tasked with holding reflect – all taking place within a public sphere that feels increasingly dynamic and volatile.

’Public institutions do not sit “outside” society, they are the barometer of time and place. How museums and galleries open themselves up to change and engage dissenting voices is not obvious or easy, but as a recent visitor said, “Art is an invitation to a conversation” – so perhaps our role might be to unlock that conversation.’ – Maria Balshaw

Taking a wide-ranging and thought-provoking look at the roles and responsibilities of some of our most well-known and best-loved public institutions, Gathering of Strangers: Why Museums Matter explores the critical challenges and opportunities for the museum at this point in the twenty-first century. Moving from the historical origins of the gallery to important current debates taking place around art and public engagement, the climate emergency, race equality and decolonisation, and the value of the arts in education, this book sets out the role of art and artists in imagining and shaping our collective future.

It is also a love letter to museums, from a sector leader who is at the forefront of the cultural conversation today.

‘Ambitious, generous and packed with ideas, this is a thrilling, thought-provoking invitation into the museum of the future, where both art and people are made welcome.’ – Olivia Laing

Maria Balshaw is Director of Tate. Previously, she was Director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester; Director of Manchester City Galleries; and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council. She is also a member of the Women Leaders in Museums Network and a member of the Bizot group of leading global museums.