Students Staff

About us

BA Curatorial Studies

Two men carrying a painting

Our new BA Curatorial Studies degree provides you with the expert knowledge and practical skills for pursuing careers in curating, gallery management and museums and combines class-based learning with hands-on experience.

Essex Art History is part of the School of Philosophy and Art History, a community of academics sharing a common project of researching and teaching art and ideas. Founded in 1967, we have long been recognised for our expertise across a wide range of areas in the history and theory of art, including the Renaissance, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art, modern and contemporary art, curating and art from Latin America.

We have recently ranked 5th in the UK for Art History by the 2018 Complete University Guide, and we are ranked 6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014). We offer a wide range of courses for undergraduates, taught postgraduates and doctoral research students in an environment that emphasises collaboration and collegiality for research and teaching.

During the past decade we have been home to five major research projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), looking at topics such as photography, surrealism and Latin American art.

Our vision

  • Essex Art History

    Essex Art History features a dynamic group of art historians who investigate the production and reception of images and built environments, across cultures and media from the early modern period to the present. While we adopt a diverse range of approaches in our writing and teaching, our work demonstrates a commitment to three key ideas:

    The social and political implications of art, architecture, and visual culture

    All forms of visual culture – from paintings to building interiors, from medical imagery to tattoos – emerge from and contribute to the mediation of social and political forces. Scholars at Essex investigate the role of art, architecture, and other forms of visual culture in the assertion, negotiation, and contestation of power in relation to a variety of topics. These include the planning of tyrants’ cities in the Italian Renaissance; the entanglement of the historical avant-garde with the politics of Fascism; and the production of objects by contemporary activists in pursuit of social change. Throughout our work, we emphasise issues of autonomy, agency, dissent, and the contestation of the public realm.

    Space, place, and locale

    Art historians at Essex are strongly concerned with the conceptualisation, production, experience, and representation of spaces and places. We investigate topics that include the ideologies that drive urban change; architectural metaphors in software design; the fusion of real and imaginary places in religious paintings; the design of exhibition spaces and the implications of curatorial practice; and the varied locales and landscapes of the county of Essex itself.

    Art produced beyond its historic institutions

    We are committed to bringing the approaches of art history into contact with other disciplines and discourses in order to interrogate objects of our shared visual and material culture, including body art, wax casts, activist placards, and Fascist floor mosaics. Our transdisciplinary approach facilitates critical engagement with an array of artworks and visual culture that stand both within and beyond the traditional canons of art history.

More about us

  • Centre for Curatorial Studies

    Our Centre for Curatorial Studies offers Masters courses in professional curatorial practice, and is a focus of research and teaching on the practice and theory of contemporary curating and museology.

  • Essex Collection of Art from Latin America

    The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) contains over 700 artworks and provides a unique research and teaching resource for our students. The collection has held exhibitions at Firstsite, Art Exchange among other venues and runs an ongoing programme of talks, symposia and artists’ performances.

  • Art Exchange

    Our Colchester Campus is also home to the Art Exchange gallery which runs a programme of exhibitions and talks, and other events as well as hosting exhibitions organised by our Centre for Curatorial Studies students.

  • firstsite

    firstsite is a large and iconic exhibition venue in the centre of Colchester and runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, as well as film screenings, talks and music events.

  • Seminars and events

    Throughout the year, we run an exciting programme of events, including art history seminars, with speakers invited from across the UK and abroad, as well as from our School. We also host our annual graduate conference, organised by our postgraduates, alongside a variety of other workshops and symposia.

  • Art works on our website

    We would like to thank waterside contemporary, London for permission to reproduce the following artwork in the banner area of our website:

    We would also like to thank Essex Collection of art from Latin America (ESCALA) for permission to reproduce the following artworks from their collection on our website:

    • Raúl Piña, Doble eclipse de luna (1998), © the artist, image courtesy of ESCALA.
    • León Ferrari, Rua (1980-2000), © the artist, image courtesy of ESCALA.
    • Jorge Luis Macchi, Vidas paralelas (1996), © the artist, image courtesy of ESCALA.
    • Regina José Galindo, Lesson of dissection (2011), © the artist, image courtesy of ESCALA.

Undergraduate study

Undergraduate study

Undergraduate study in art history at Essex offers a unique combination of the historical and theoretical study of art, visual culture and curating from the renaissance to the present.

Postgraduate study

Postgraduate study

We are internationally recognised as a leading centre of postgraduate study in art history and curatorial studies, both at Masters and PhD level.

PhD study

Postgraduate research study

By undertaking PhD study at Essex, you will become a member of an exciting and active research community, and benefit from the expert supervision of our internationally recognised staff.



The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is a unique research and teaching resource giving our students the chance to engage with over 750 artworks from 1900 to the present.