Students Staff

Our research

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.

Art History at Essex is internationally recognised for our research across a wide range of areas in the history and theory of art. We are ranked 6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014).

Our research strengths include:

  • Art and visual culture from the 19th and 20th centuries, from painting and sculpture to exhibition design and everyday objects
  • Renaissance art and architecture
  • Exhibition design and curatorial practice
  • Issues of spectatorship in art, architecture and design
  • Activist art
  • History of tattooing
  • Art and science
  • 1960s counterculture
  • History of photography
  • Medical humanities
  • Contemporary architecture
  • Urbanism and the built environment

Staff research

Our academic staff have produced a number of major publications and research projects; their staff profiles contain details of individual research interests and publications.

  • Our vision

    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.

Research focus: Dr Matt Lodder

In video this video, lecturer Dr Matt Lodder talks about his research on the history of tattoing and body modification, as well as why you should study art history.

Dr Lodder is co-curating Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings - opening next year in the U.S., and was an expert consultant for Museum of London's Tattoo London exhibition.

Research focus: Dr Gavin Grindon - Disobedient Objects

Dr Gavin Grindon from the Centre for Curatorial Studies recently co-curated the exhibition Disobedient Objects at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, which focused on objects of art and design produced within social movement cultures internationally since the late 1970s.

Dr Grindon has also curated Museum of Cruel Designs as part of the artist Banksy's Dismaland project.

Postgraduate research

Our list of current PhD theses shows the range of art history research being carried out in our School. Our postgraduates also edit two journals, Rebus and Arara. You can view completed art history PhD theses in our Albert Sloman Library.

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.

Curatorial Studies

Centre for Curatorial Studies

Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is a research and teaching unit based in our School that focuses on contemporary curatorial theory and practice and contemporary museology.



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.

AHRC funding

PhD student in library

Apply for a PhD studentship for your doctoral study funded by the Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).