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Art History

Leon Wainwright


I joined The Open University in June 2011. After teaching at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London), I was Research Fellow in Visual Culture and Media at Middlesex University (2000-2002) on the curriculum change project, GLAADH and Lecturer in Art History at the University of Sussex (2002-4). During 2004-5 I completed long-term fieldwork on issues around art and agency in Trinidad, Guyana and other locations in the Caribbean, with support from The Leverhulme Trust (Early Career Fellowship) and Sussex. Before moving to the OU, I was Reader in History of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University.

I have initiated a lasting change in the study of art in the modern and contemporary periods. First, I have redefined the geographical scope of the mainstream of art history through the study of art, migration and cultural transmission in Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Asia. Second, I have shown how art history may interact more creatively with other disciplines, with art practice, museum curating, arts organising, and the public understanding of art. As a whole, I have outlined a dynamic field of inquiry into art in an expanded and interconnected global field.

I recently won the Philip Leverhulme Prize, awarded by The Leverhulme Trust ‘to outstanding young scholars of substantial distinction and promise’.


I especially welcome informal enquiries about studying for a PhD in an area that would illuminate new directions for art history. This may involve engaging with the theoretical, curatorial and educational aspects of the discipline, or contributing to a radical line of frameworks and approaches.


The path of my work as an art historian has demanded attention across a range of fields and disciplines, institutions and cultures.

At present, I am partly occupied as OU Principal Investigator, with a EUR.1m European Science Foundation collaborative project (HERA JRP), joined by interdisciplinary partners in the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and Austria. Entitled Creativity and Innovation in a World of Movement, this is an opportunity to further advance art historical research on the Atlantic world, comparing the region with Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Among the outcomes of the project is the knowledge transfer website – ‘CIM:Resource’ – designed as a research-informed application for teaching and learning.

Alongside this I am editing a new volume in the Wiley Blackwell book series Art in Theory: An Anthology of Changing Ideas (with Charles Harrison and Paul Wood). The book will be the latest volume in the well-known series and a complete reworking of the existing Art in Theory books.

Connecting three of the international consortia funded by HERA is the project ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (CIM, PhotoCLEC and MAW). This has received  significant Knowledge Transfer and Network Funding from the Humanities in the European Research Area, Joint Research Programme (HERA JRP, European Science Foundation). I am leading the project, which will run from December 2011 to May 2013. It will include an international conference (November 2012, Museum for Ethnology, Vienna), bringing together artists, photographers, curators, policy-makers and academics from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, and extensive coverage on the Open University’s Open Arts Archive.

I am also Principal Investigator of ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’, a project running for two years from September 2012, with Co-Investigator, Professor Kitty Zijlmans (University of Leiden), the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Institute for International Visual Arts (inIVA), London. The project explores how the understanding and formation of sustainable community for the Caribbean and its diaspora may be supported by art practice, curating and museums. It fosters networks of exchange and collaboration among academics, artists, curators and policymakers from the UK and the Netherlands, as well as various countries in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diaspora. ‘Sustainable Art Communities’ is a Research Networking and Exchange Project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).


Selected publications

Follow this link for details of selected publications and presentations

External roles

Editor-in-chief, the Open Arts Journal

External Examiner, MA Contemporary Art, The Sotheby’s Institute of Art

Academic Visitor, Department of History of Art, University of Oxford 

Academic Visitor, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford 

Visiting Fellow, Yale Center for British Art

Visiting Fellow, Arts Research Center and the Department of Art History, University of California Berkeley

2005-2012 Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture, (Routledge, Taylor and Francis)

Co-curator, with Reyahn King, (Director of Art Galleries, National Museums Liverpool) of 'Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire': the first nationally-funded, major retrospective exhibition of the Guyana-born painter.
Member of the review group for the subject benchmark statement for History of Art, Architecture and Design, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

Member of the Peer Review College of The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the European Science Foundation; and reviewer for numerous academic journals and publishers

Member of the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, The Open University



Timed Out book cover
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