Joshua Sofaer’s third Artist as leader interview has just been published as part of a-n’s Research papers strand. Sofaer talks to Kate Love, Senior Lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, about her journey from graduation to lecturing positions at several UK art schools, and about the meaning and use of the phrase ‘artist as leader’.

Resulting from his Clore Leadership Programme research in 2010/11, in Artist as leader Sofaer attempts to unravel what the term might mean: “For many of my artist colleagues the idea does not scan.” This interview with Kate Love follows previous instalments featuring artist Cornelia Parker and Melbourne based collective Field Theory. You can listen to all three interviews in Research papers: Artist as leader.

Love graduated as a painter, but her teaching practice is centred around critical writing: “My role is to think about writing as a practice; trying to think of writing as a practice like painting.”

In common with other interviewees in the series, Love finds the term ‘artist as leader’ problematic: “I don’t think of artists as leaders, it’s hard work to make it signify”.

But Love objects to other terms under discussion too: For her ‘teacher’, ‘artist’, and ‘leader’ are all contested.

As Joshua Sofaer explains: “Not only does Kate Love not like the idea of ‘leader’ in the context of art, she doesn’t like the terms ‘artist’ or ‘teacher’ either. For her there is a political imperative to finding a different language. But while the rest of society thinks in terms of leadership, will this leave those working with art disempowered?”

The discussion goes on to unravel what Sofaer means by ‘leader’, resulting in Love’s attempts to reclassify the term as “‘leading the field’ where ‘lead’ is a verb rather than a noun and has some use value in relation to artists working.”

“Love’s difficulty with the notion of the ‘artist leader’ articulates a general problem that the interviewees have found across this research project. The culturally dominant identification of the leader as a ‘political buffoon’ is simply so prevalent that finding a way to make ‘artist leader’ mean something else, is exceptionally hard.”

Listen to Artist as leader: Kate Love

Look out for further interviews being published over the coming months.

More on

Leading through practiceAnne Douglas and Chris Fremantle of On The Edge Research share insights into the Artist as Leader research programme. Published: March 2007

Alternative art schools – Pippa Koszerek investigates the recent revival of alternative art schools with contributions by Robyn Minogue, art historian Martin Patrick and artist Terry Smith. Published March 2011.