Students Staff

05 February 2013

ISLAA supports study of Latin American art history at the University of Essex


Valeria Paz Moscoso has received a grant to support her work on Roberto Valcárcel

The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) has awarded a $60,000 grant to the School of Philosophy and Art History (SPAH) and the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) at the University of Essex to support the study of and research into Latin American art.

Essex is the first UK university to receive support from ISLAA, which already works in partnership with the Department of Art History at Columbia University, the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and the Center for Latin American Visual Studies (CLAVIS), in the Department of Art History at the University of Texas, Austin.

The grant from ISLAA further enhances the University of Essex’s longstanding world-class reputation for the study of Latin American art. Students researching and studying Latin American art will benefit through funding to support their studies, research trips, and for visiting scholars. The funding will also allow the expansion of the public lecture programme and other events centred on Latin American art.

The first students receiving ISLAA funding are:

  • Ian Dudley – who is being supported to travel to Guyana as part of his research for his PhD on Amerindian Landscapes and Bodies in Edward Goodall’s ‘Sketches in British Guiana’, 1841–1844 which investigates ethnographic representation in the 19th century and is part of his broader interests in the art and history of northern Amazonia and its indigenous peoples.
  • Andrés Montenegro – who is studying the work of Francis Alÿs, Santiago Sierra and Tania Bruguera as part of his PhD is being supported to travel to New York to take part in a discussion on the grotesque at the prestigious 101st Annual Conference of the College Art Association.
  • Valeria Paz Moscoso – who is undertaking extensive interviews with influential Bolivian artist Roberto Valcárcel as part of her research into his work between 1977 and the present.

Ian said: “The funding gives me the chance to travel to Guyana to do research around language and ideas surrounding the soul and being photographed – how indigenous people feel about it now and how attitudes have changed over time.”

Andrés said: “The College Art Association Conference is the biggest and most important forum for art historians from across the world to test ideas, critique each other’s work and develop a dialogue with academics."

Valeria said: “This award allows me to continue my research at one of the most important universities specialising in Latin American art in the world.”

Professor Dawn Ades CBE, who pioneered the study of Latin American art in the UK at Essex, noted: “We are thrilled and very grateful to ISLAA for making such a generous contribution to SPAH and ESCALA to support students of Latin American Art at the University of Essex. The funding helps students to make the most of the excellent resources at the University and to broaden their horizons through travel and contact with visiting scholars.”

Dr Rebecca Breen, who leads the Latin American art programme within SPAH, added: “We are very keen to build on SPAH’s reputation in the field of Latin American art. As the University approaches its 50th anniversary in 2014, this generous grant from ISLAA has provided a real boost to students, as well as drawing attention to the growing importance of this specialism at the University of Essex, which is supported by an outstanding collection of Latin American art.”

Latin American art at the University of Essex

The focus on Latin American art at SPAH has its roots in the appointment in 1968 of Professor Dawn Ades CBE to the then Department of Art History and Theory. Professor Ades pioneered the research and teaching of art from Latin America in the UK, creating the country’s first specialised undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in this field, including modules in pre-contact and colonial art from Latin America. Professor Ades’ research led, in 1989, to the ground-breaking exhibition Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820 to 1980, at the Hayward Gallery in London.

This exhibition also led, in 1993, to the founding of the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art (UECLAA), now ESCALA, following the donation by Charles Cosac of a painting by Siron Franco to the University. ESCALA remains the only public collection in Europe dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art and. In 2011, it began to exhibit at firstsite, a new contemporary art venue in Colchester, designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects. As well as collaborating with firtsite, ESCALA and SPAH recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Tate which will increase opportunities for collaborative research, study and professional development.

The Latin American art programme at the University of Essex is now headed up by Dr Rebecca Breen, a graduate of the University of Cambridge. Although both semi-retired, Professor Ades and her colleague, Professor Valerie Fraser, continue to contribute to the programme and current areas of research include testimonio, Post-Indigenism and contemporary art from the Andes and Central America.

SPAH is recognised for its specialism in Latin American Art and for the quality of its research and teaching, contributing to and benefitting from the University of Essex’s interdisciplinary and international focus. Since 1984 more than 75 postgraduate students studying at Masters and PhD level have graduated in Latin American art-related topics from the University of Essex.

As a research-focused University collection, ESCALA, regularly contributes to teaching in SPAH and other schools and departments, as well as providing professional development opportunities to staff and students in relation to curating, museum practice, digitization methods, research and writing. Since 1993 ESCALA has helped train more than 30 curators and curatorial advisors, many of whom now occupy specialised posts internationally in the field of Latin American Art.


The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) is an educational initiative of the Geo Global Foundation devoted to the support of advanced research in the field of Latin American Art Studies. ISLAA plays a relevant role in promoting Latin American art through its distinguished grants and support of lectures, conferences and publications. ISLAA facilitates grants to partnering universities and institutions which in turn award them to selected scholars, professionals and specific projects.


For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 874377.

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