Dr Virginia Button

Job title
Director, The Falmouth School of Art
01326 254261 Ext: 4261

I have a BA(Hons) in Art History from Leeds University (1979-82) and an MA and PhD on the subject of English Neo-Romanticism from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, completing my PhD in 1992. I was a Tate curator in London (1991-2001), initially working in the Tate Gallery’s Modern Collection then from 1998 as senior curator, Tate Britain, responsible for managing the gallery's permanent collection displays. At Tate I developed a specialism in contemporary British art, curating artists’ projects and major exhibitions including the Turner Prize from 1993 to 1998. In 1993 I was assistant curator for Tate’s Ben Nicholson retrospective and in 2000 I developed and co-curated with Charles Esche, Intelligence, the first Tate Triennial before moving to Cornwall in 2001.

In Cornwall I have worked as a writer, teacher, consultant and independent curator. I joined Falmouth University in 2002 as an associate lecturer and in 2008 led MA Curatorial Practice, which I developed as a unique collaboration with regional partners Tate St Ives, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and ProjectBase. I became head of the Department of Art in 2010, and director of The Falmouth School of Art in 2013. My publications include The Turner Prize (first published 1997, fifth revised edition 2007), Christopher Wood (2003), Ben Nicholson (2007) and a companion guide for Tate St Ives, St Ives Artists (2009). My book on Lucian Freud will be published by Tate in 2015.


YearQualificationAwarding body
PhD, History of Art
University of London
MA, History of Art
University of London
BA (Hons) History of Art
Leeds University

Honours and awards


Henry Moore Foundation Scholarship

Membership of external committees

Board member, Southerly Point Co-operative Education Trust

Research interests

Research interests and expertise

I have a continuing interest in English Neo-Romanticism (1930s-1950s) and British modernism generally, combined with a specialist knowledge of contemporary art and curating. More recently my research interests have focused on debates around the global and the local and the challenges around art production and its curation within geographically dispersed contexts or communities.

Research topics

Contemporary Art
Art Production
20th Century Art

Research outputs

Publications and research outputs

Book Chapter

Button, Ginny (2008) The Art of the Second World War. In: The History of British Art 1879-Now. Tate Britain. ISBN 978-1854376527 Item not available from this repository.

Report or Working Paper

Button, Ginny (2009) Manifesta Bid Curatorial Narrative. Technical Report. Cornwall Council; Arts Council England. Item not available from this repository.


Button, Virginia (2015) Lucian Freud. British Artists . Tate Publishing (Tate Enterprises Ltd), London, UK. ISBN 978 1 84976 314 1

Research students

Current research students

Gemma Anderson, completing a practice-based PhD at University of the Arts London and Falmouth University on Isomorphology, a term she has devised to describe her research - in collaboration with scientists and mathematicians - into cross-kingdom resemblances between the animal, vegetable and mineral.

Ruth Gooding, Contemporary Arts Programme Manager, National Trust Bristol, and alumna of Falmouth's MA Curatorial Practice, is researching a PhD exploring how the curator and artist can effect change with politically motivated practices within the parameters of the politics of rural space. 

Number of research degree examinations: 120


Areas of teaching

Curatorial Practice; Fine Art; History of Art

Policy engagement within Cornwall

From 2003 to 2011 I was a Board member of ProjectBase, formerly St Ives International - a partnership between University College Falmouth, Tate St Ives, Newlyn Art Gallery and Arts Council England to deliver collaborative international art projects in Cornwall - and from 2011-13 when if was repurposed to deliver The Cornwall Programme. ProjectBase led on Cornwall's  bid to host Manifesta 2012, supported by Cornwall Council. Penzance-based artist led group CAZ (Cornwall Autonomous Zone) continues to develop some of the strategies identified by this research. I remain an adviser to CAZ.

I have also been a board member of the Southerly Point Co-operative Education Trust since 2014.

Professional engagement