Blog

Image for the news item 'Hat on Head, Hands on Hips ' on 4 Feb 2020
New court collage

Alice Strang (née Dewey, matric 1992) is an Emmanuel Woman through and through and has made her name as a Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art celebrating the achievements of women artists. Here she discusses her journey from undergraduate to National Gallery, which culminates in appearing in a work of art to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the admittance of women undergraduates to Emma, by – you’ve guessed it – a woman artist.

My father and maternal uncle studied at Emmanuel in the 1960s, my parents were married in the college chapel in 1966 and I arrived there in 1992, two years after my sister, Faith Archer (née Dewey, matric 1990). I had spent a Gap Year as an au pair in Florence and thought I would scream if I saw another Madonna and Child painting; thus began my love of modern art. I read History with Italian Part I, followed by a blissful History of Art Part II. This involved reading lists consisting entirely of books I would have chosen to read for pleasure. There were no modern let alone contemporary art papers available, so I got my fix by volunteering at the magical Kettle’s Yard.

After completing my degree, I joined Christie’s Graduating Training Scheme. Stints on the Front Counter and in the British Paintings and Jewellery Departments, led to becoming a Junior Specialist in Modern and Impressionist Art. Promotion and time in the Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Art departments secured me the position of Junior Curator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. I left King’s Cross with my duvet and pillow in a bag in one hand and an Edinburgh A-Z in the other, planning to give it two years before trying to get into the Tate.

Twenty years later, now complete with a Glaswegian husband and two sons with Scottish accents, I am a Senior Curator at the National Galleries of Scotland. I’ve curated exhibitions of women artists from Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) to co-curating the current Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance show, which runs at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two until 19 April 2020 (https://www.nationalgalleries.org/exhibition/paula-rego-obedience-and-defiance). Much as a parent shouldn’t have a favourite child, nor should a curator have a favourite show, but I can’t help  having a soft spot for the Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 exhibition and book, which revealed a new chapter in Scottish art history and for which I was made a Saltire Society Outstanding Woman of Scotland.

When women graduates of Emmanuel were asked recently to send in photos of their time at college, I nostalgically went through my albums and sent in a few. It was a delightful surprise to find (the least flattering) one featured lower left in New Court Overlay, 2019 by Matilda Schwefel (matric.2017 / ECSU President), created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Emma’s admittance of women undergraduates. Hat on head, hands on hips, I was mucking about in the Porters’ Lodge. Little did I know that the resultant photo would end up summing up not only my time at university but also my professional life thereafter.

Back to All Blog Posts