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 the 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) a companion guide for Tate St Ives, St Ives Artists (2009) and Lucian Freud (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
Trustee, Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD), Gallery Network

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



I launched CHEAD's Gallery Network by organising a day-symposium for members at Falmouth University, in collaboration with Tate St Ives, Tate National programmes, and Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, supported by CHEAD colleagues. I will be delivering a follow up day-symposium in March 2018 in collaboration with Bath Spa and the Holburne museum.

Research students

Previous student supervision

Gemma Anderson, completed 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 mathmaticians - into cross-kingdom resemblances between the animal, vegetable and mineral.

Number of research students supervised to completion: 1

Research degrees examined

I have examined one PhD student at Falmouth University, one PhD student at Loughborough University and one PhD student at Kingston University.

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.

Business engagement

Consultancy and facility services

Selection panel, The Redruth Brewery Public Art commission (Blake Whitehead and Craig Little) for Cornwall Council 2015.
Selection panel for Falmouth Art Gallery's 'Imagine Falmouth' open submission exhibition 2016.
Selection panel for The Arts Society South West Area (formerly NADFAS), 50th Anniversary exhibition, Dartington Hall, Totnes, 2018

Professional engagement