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Dr Leon Wainwright BA (UEA) MA PhD (SOAS)

Profile summary

Professional biography

I began my university teaching career in 1997 at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London), before moving to become a Research Fellow in Visual Culture and Media at Middlesex University (2000-2002) where I helped to set up the national curriculum change project, GLAADH. I held the post of Lecturer in Art History at the University of Sussex (2002-2004) and completed long-term fieldwork in 2004-2005 on an extensive look at issues around art and social 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 in June 2011, I was Reader in History of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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

Research interests

The path of my work as an art historian has spanned a range of disciplines and topics, with several lines of inquiry into art in an expanded and interconnected global field.

I have worked to redefine the geographical scope of the mainstream of art history as a discipline through the study of art and geographical movement in Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Asia. I have also shown how art history may interact more creatively with art practice, museum curating, arts organising, and the public understanding of art.

At present I am co-editing the Routledge Companion to Global Art Histories (with Diana Newall and Grant Pooke), and a new volume in the Wiley Blackwell book series Art in Theory: An Anthology of Changing Ideas (with Charles Harrison and Paul Wood) -- the latest volume in the well-known Art in Theory titles.

Since 2010, I have served as Principal Investigator on three Research Council UK/European Union-funded projects, each with project partners in several European countries.

Most recently, I was Principal Investigator of ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’, with Co-Investigator, Professor Dr. Kitty Zijlmans (University of Leiden), the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Institute for International Visual Arts (inIVA), London. The project ran for two years from September 2012 and explored how the understanding and formation of sustainable communities for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas may be supported by art practice, curating and museums. It has fostered networks of exchange and collaboration funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

The project builds on two previous internationally-funded projects:

  • Creativity and Innovation in a World of Movement. Led by Queen's University in Belfast, this consortium of four projects each had a Principal Investigator, of which I was one. Through my project’s overseas fieldwork and range of publications, I focused attention on the patterns and relationships between art and world-wide experiences of human migration and global flows of capital. Among the outcomes of this grant was a deeper art historical understanding of the contemporary Caribbean and dissemination of knowledge to other disciplines – namely social anthropology, religious studies and museum ethnography -- and the knowledge transfer website, ‘CIM:Resource’ which was designed as a research-informed application for teaching and learning. This interdisciplinary collaboration between universities in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands was funded by the European Science Foundation (as part of a €1,000,000, HERA JRP consortium in the largest EU-wide funding scheme in the humanities).
  • 'Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ connected three of the international consortia funded by HERA (CIM, PhotoCLEC and MAW), and I served as its Principal Investigator. This received significant Knowledge Transfer and Network Funding from the Humanities in the European Research Area, Joint Research Programme (HERA JRP, European Science Foundation). It included an international conference (November 2012, Museum for Ethnology, Vienna), that brought together artists, photographers, curators, policy-makers and academics from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, and was covered extensively in the Open University’s Open Arts Archive and a themed issue of the Open Arts Journal.

Selected publications

Follow this link for details of selected publications and presentations

External roles

Kindler Chair in Global Contemporary Art, Colgate University, New York

Editor-in-chief, the Open Arts Journal

Member of international evaluation panel of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

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

Teaching interests

I warmly welcome informal enquiries about studying for a PhD in an area that would illuminate new directions for art history, focusing on the theoretical, curatorial or educational aspects of the discipline in the modern and contemporary periods. This might involve setting a challenge to the traditionally Western focus of art history as a discipline, perhaps with reference to the Caribbean, India, or black and Asian British culture, or addressing issues about historical memory and institutional power from within colonial and postcolonial histories.


Timed out: pathways and pitfalls for art history and Caribbean Studies (2015-07)
Wainwright, Leon
Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism ((In press))
Disturbing pasts: memories, controversies and creativity (2014-07-21)
Wainwright, Leon
Open Arts Journal(3)
Americocentrism and art of the Caribbean: contours of a time-space logic (2013-05)
Wainwright, Leon
Journal of American Studies, 47(2) (pp. 417-438)
Transatlantic movement and the taste for ethnicity: art and ‘exchange’ between Suriname and the Netherlands (2013)
Wainwright, Leon
Etnofoor, 24(2) (pp. 13-40)
Varieties of Belatedness and Provincialism: Decolonisation and British Pop (2012-04)
Wainwright, Leon
Art History, 35(2) (pp. 442-461)
Arrested transmission: from periphery to center (2012)
Wainwright, Leon
Art Papers Magazine, 36(6) (pp. 44-49)
On being unique: world art and its British institutions (2009-03)
Wainwright, Leon
Visual Culture in Britain, 10(1) (pp. 87-101)
New provincialisms: curating art of the African diaspora (2009-01)
Wainwright, Leon
Radical History Review(103) (pp. 203-213)
Aubrey Williams: a painter in the aftermath of painting (2009)
Wainwright, Leon
Wasafiri, 24(3) (pp. 65-79)
Frank Bowling and the appetite for British pop (2008-03)
Wainwright, Leon
Third Text, 22(2) (pp. 195-208)
Solving Caribbean mysteries: art, embodiment and an eye for the Tropics (2008-02)
Wainwright, Leon
Small Axe(25) (pp. 133-144)
Timed Out: Art and the Transnational Caribbean (2011-11-01)
Wainwright, Leon
Rethinking Art's Histories
ISBN : 978-0-7190-8484-3 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester
Art and Caribbean slavery: modern visions of the 1763 Guyana Rebellion (2015-12)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Bernier, Celeste-Marie and Durkin, Hannah eds. Visualising Slavery and Reimaging Memory: Art Across the Black Diaspora ((In press))
Publisher : Liverpool University Press | Published : Liverpool
The emotions and ethnicity in the Indo-Caribbean (2012-05)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Svašek, Maruška ed. Moving Subjects, Moving Objects: Transnationalism, Cultural Production and Emotions (pp. 222-244)
ISBN : 978-0-85745-323-5 | Publisher : Berghahn
‘Beyond globalisation in contemporary art history: learning from the transnational Caribbean’ (2012-05)
Wainwright, Leon
In: ter Horst, Mariska ed. Changing Perspectives: Dealing with Globalisation in the Presentation and Collection of Contemporary Art (pp. 204-212)
ISBN : 9789460221958 | Publisher : The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Amsterdam | Published : Amsterdam
Global change and contemporary art of the Caribbean: notes on the futurology of a sustainable art community (2012-05)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Hoffmann, Nancy ed. Who More Sci-Fi Than Us? Contemporary Art from the Caribbean (pp. 80-84)
ISBN : 9789460222115 | Publisher : The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) | Published : Amsterdam
Alien nation: contemporary art and black Britain (2011)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Brunt, Rosalind and Cere, Rinella eds. Postcolonial Media Culture in Britain (pp. 27-40)
ISBN : 9780230545304 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke
The Black Atlantic, Suriname and the Netherlands: challenges for curating and historicising art of the Caribbeah (2010-01-18)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Dölle , Mariette and Jonas , Malka eds. Conversations on Paramaribo Perspectives
Publisher : TENT | Published : Rotterdam
Art (school) education and art history (2010)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Appignanesi, Richard ed. Beyond Cultural Diversity: the Case for Creativity (pp. 93-103)
ISBN : 978-0-947753-11-5 | Publisher : Third Text Publications | Published : London
Aubrey Williams: Atlantic fire (2010)
Wainwright, Leon
In: King, Reyahn ed. Aubrey Williams (pp. 46-55)
ISBN : 978-1-899542-30-7 | Publisher : National Museums Liverpool and October Gallery | Published : Liverpool and London
Speaking to contemporary art history: Denis Williams and Guyana (2010)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Williams, Charlotte and Williams, Evelyn A. eds. Denis Williams: a Life in Works. New and Collected Essays. Cross/Cultures: Readings in the Post/Colonial Literautres in English (120) (pp. 65-75)
ISBN : 978-90-420-2791-6 | Publisher : Rodopi Press | Published : Amsterdam
Labelling and assembling: histories and challenges for an Asia Triennial (2009-06-30)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Mitha, Alnoor; Khan, Fareda and Rangasamy , Jacques eds. Asia Triennial Manchester 08
ISBN : 978-0954556396 | Publisher : Shisha | Published : Manchester
Mutual ground: post-empire canons of art in Britain and the Caribbean (2009)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Rahim, Jennifer and Lalla, Barbara eds. Beyond Borders: Cross-Culturalism and the Caribbean Canon (pp. 116-148)
ISBN : 9789766402167 | Publisher : University of the West Indies Press | Published : Mona, Kingston, Jamaica
At Northern Intersections forever: art and the time trap (2009)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Ajji, Tejpal S. and Soske, John eds. South-South: Interruptions & Encounters (pp. 73-76)
ISBN : 978-0-7727-6068-5 | Publisher : Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and South Asian Visual Arts Centre, University of Toronto | Published : Toronto
British responses to Caribbean art (2007-03-22)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Dabydeen, David; Gilmore , John and Jones , Cecily eds. The Oxford Companion to Black British History. Oxford Companions
ISBN : 978-0-19-280439-6 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK
Aubrey Williams (2007-03-22)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Dabydeen, David; Gilmore , John and Jones, Cecily eds. The Oxford Companion to Black British History. Oxford Companions
ISBN : 978-0-19-280439-6 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK
Canon Questions: Art in 'Black Britain' (2006)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Low, Gail and Wynne-Davies , Marion eds. A Black British Canon? (pp. 143-167)
ISBN : 1403942684 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke
Introduction (2005)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Bailey, David A.; Baucom, Ian and Boyce, Sonia eds. Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain (pp. 307-308)
ISBN : 9780822334095 | Publisher : Duke University Press
Art Forms (2002)
Wainwright, Leon
In: Donnell , Alison ed. Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture (pp. 20-22)
ISBN : 415169895 | Publisher : Routledge
Objects and Imagination: Perspectives on Materialization and Meaning (2015-02)
Wainwright, Leon and Fuglerud, Øivind eds.
Material Mediations: People and Things in a World of Movement
ISBN : 978-1-78238-566-0 | Publisher : Berghahn Books | Published : Oxford
Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity (2014-07)
Wainwright, Leon; Edwards, Elizabeth and Blacker, Uilleam
Blacker, Uilleam; Edwards, Elizabeth and Wainwright, Leon eds.
Open Arts Journal
Publisher : The Open University
Triennial City: Localising Asian Art (2014-04-01)
Kennedy, Beccy; Mitha, Alnoor and Wainwright, Leon eds.
ISBN : 9780956957184 | Publisher : Cornerhouse | Published : Manchester