Art History Festival 2021

Our  Art History Festival 2021 programme brought together myriad art histories, art historians and art lovers – details of programme events and videos captured throughout the festival are available on the links below.


5 – 6pm

Art History Festival Digital Programme Welcome
Felt Events: Ilana Halperin in Conversation with Catriona McAra and Contributors
Discover the multifaceted, conceptual practice of artist Ilana Halperin as she unearths the intimate poetics of rocks, minerals, and body stones. This event was organised by the Scottish Society for Art History in association with the Museums of the University of St Andrews.

6 – 7pm
Whose Histories? Art in the Historic House
Following the publication earlier this year of 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust, Tarnya Cooper, the National Trust’s Curatorial & Collections Director, reflects on how we can navigate and share the multiple narratives embedded in the concept of the English and Welsh historic country house.

7 – 8pm
Hidden Figures: Unlocking the Courtauld Collection
The Courtauld team reveal the hidden stories of people of colour through an exploration of both pictorial and material representation in works from their collection.

8 – 9pm
The Medieval World with the Women Written Back In
Art and cultural historian, Janina Ramirez discusses her forthcoming book, Femina, introducing the important women that have been written out of history. By bringing them back into the buildings they inhabited, the landscapes they walked across, and alongside the objects they handled, Janina presents new insights into the medieval period.


5 – 6pm
Art and Anatomy: An Audience with Dr William Hunter
Sarah Backhouse, Exhibitions Officer at the Royal College of Physicians, explores the subject of anatomical teaching in Georgian society, and the hidden narratives present in a painting by artist Johann Zoffany.

6 – 7pm
Art and Medicine in Conversation: Eleanor Crook at the Science Museum 
Katy Barrett, Curator of Art Collections at the Science Museum, and sculptor Eleanor Crook considers the intersections between art and medicine inherent in her practice.

7 – 8pm
What Is the Point of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition?
Lois Oliver, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Royal Academy, addresses the cultural value of this popular annual event in its 253rd iteration.

8 – 9pm
The Island of Last Hope: Refugee Architects on the Brink of the Second World War
Valeria Carullo, Photographs Curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects, utilises the rich resources of the RIBA British Architectural Library to reveal the personal stories of architects seeking passage from Europe on the brink of war. This talk was delivered on behalf of the Royal Institute of British Architects and supported by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.


4 – 5pm
Self Portraiture and the Family Archive
Artist Silvia Rosi offers insights into her practice which explores her personal family history drawing on her Togolese heritage, and the idea of origins. She works with self-portraiture, video and text, to narrate her parent’s story of migration from Togo in West Africa to Italy.

5 – 6pm
The British Museum as a Resource for Art History
The British Museum’s Sarah Saunders, Head of Learning and National Partnerships and Hilary Williams, Education Officer: Art History, discusses art-historical influences across the museum collections from Hellenism to Gandhara, Michelangelo’s drawings into ceramics, and Greek vases via Sir William Hamilton, to Wedgwood’s Pegasus Vase.

6 – 7pm
Remembering Things 
Our festival partners, the Design History Society, present an interactive celebration of everyday things and their innate ability to capture and trigger memory. The audience was encouraged to share an image of a thing and the personal recollections it holds for discussion in the session.

7 – 8pm
Worlds of Art: Artists, Buyers and Markets
This talk delivered by Kathy McLauchlan, V&A Academy Course Director, considers the art scene between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, a period that saw dramatic changes in the display and consumption of art across Europe and America.

8.30 – 9.30pm
Cotton, Incarceration, and Care
Artist Jade Monserrat was joined by academics and curators Anna Arabindan-Kesson and Alexandra Moore for a discussion inspired by Montserrat’s practice, touching upon the themes of landscape, extraction, and abolition, and considering the role of art, historically and in the present moment, in shaping vision and potentially creating a more caring future.


4 – 5pm
Rarely Seen Black South African Modernists: Has Art History Afforded Them Adequate Recognition?
Makgati Molebatsi, Senior Art Specialist at Aspire Auctions, sheds light on some of the overlooked artists that received their art training at Polly Street Art Centre during the Apartheid regime.

5 – 6pm
Artist as Activists: From the Quiet to the Outspoken
In this talk, Anna Liesching, Curator of Art at National Museums Northern Ireland, primarily focuses on women artists and their crucial role in art history as champions for change and resistance.

6 – 7pm
How Architect Louis Kahn Enshrined Democracy in Concrete
Gallerist, art historian and filmmaker Sundaram Tagore talks about the aesthetic and philosophical impact of American architect Louis Kahn’s epic buildings, and shares extracts from his documentary Louis Kahn’s Tiger City.

7 – 8.30pm
Framing the Body: Life Drawing from the Wallace Collection
An opportunity to develop your own creative practice through close study of Titian’s iconic Perseus and Andromeda with drawing tutor and lecturer in art history Karly Allen.


6.30 – 8pm (Sainsbury Wing Theatre)
Art History Festival Launch
Gregory Perry, Chief Executive Officer, Association for Art History and Caroline Campbell, Head of Collections and Research at the National Gallery launched the in-person programme and introduced our guest speakers: Jill Burke, Professor of Renaissance Visual and Material Cultures, University of Edinburgh; and fine art portrait photographer Mahtab Hussain.

6.30 -7pm (Room 24)
Art and Storytelling
Writer, presenter and art historian, Ferren Gipson, discusses how aspiring to become a good storyteller has become central to her art-historical practice and her approach to the Art Matters podcast, video content, and her recent book The Ultimate Art Museum.

6.30 – 8pm (Room 32)
Theatrical Life Drawing Workshop: Playful Shapes
Originary Arts invite you to see and draw differently with contemporary figures juxtaposed against seventeenth-century Italian paintings.

7.30 – 8.30pm (Room 29)
Public Art, Personal Depth
Jorella Andrews, Director of Research for Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, guides participants to consider how to use public collections and resources creatively and strategically in order to clarify deeply held personal interests and concerns.


10.30 – 11.30am (Room 18)
Everyday Wonders: A Mindful Look at Dutch Art
Christina Bradstreet, Courses and Events Programmer at The National Gallery, takes a slow look at paintings of everyday life in seventeenth- century Holland, and encourages viewers to find out for themselves whether mindfulness practice can help sustain their viewing of art and be a catalyst for wonder.

10.45 – 11.30am (Sainsbury Wing Theatre)
Who Will Hear My Story?
Artist Joy Gregory explores the lost histories and silenced narratives that have informed and continue to be revealed in her artwork and research.

11am – 12.30pm (Room 32)
Theatrical Life Drawing Workshop: Black Dandies
Originary Arts encourage you to see and draw differently with contemporary figures juxtaposed against seventeenth-century Italian paintings.

11.45am – 12.15pm (Room 53)
Museums as Culture Factories
Charles Saumarez Smith, former Director of the National Gallery and Richard J. Williams, Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures at Edinburgh University discuss the nature of the contemporary museum and its architecture, including new developments in art spaces internationally, and the advantages and disadvantages of museums being viewed as civic spaces and architectural icons.

12.30 – 1.15pm (Sainsbury Wing Theatre)
In Conversation with Christine Checinska: Design History and African Diasporas
A Design History Society panel explore Christine Checinska’s experience as an artist, writer and design historian, and provide rare insights into the forthcoming exhibition Africa Fashion at the V&A in 2022.

1.45 – 2.15pm (Room 34)
An Olfactory Journey 
The Arts Society encourages participants to join Tasha Marks, food historian and founder of AVM Curiosities, to experience familiar artworks in a very unfamiliar way.

2 – 3.30pm (Room 32)
Theatrical Life Drawing Workshop: Style Rebels 
Originary Arts provide an opportunity to see and draw differently with contemporary figures juxtaposed against seventeenth-century Italian paintings.

2.15 – 3pm (Sainsbury Wing Theatre)
Art Detectives with Philip Mould and Aviva Burnstock
The art dealer, Philip Mould, and the conservation scientist at the Courtauld, Aviva Burnstock, from the award winning BBC1 series Fake or Fortune?, revisit some past cases in order to demonstrate how science, hand in hand with more traditional methodologies, has helped transform perceptions and advanced attributions.

3.15 – 3.45pm (Room 9)
Rethinking Blackness in Western Art
How do Western narratives of art history inform our perception of Blackness? Alayo Akinkugbe, founder of the Instagram account @ABlackHistoryOfArt, considers this question in relation to the role of Black sitters, artists and the layout of national museums, with the hope of challenging long-existing and outdated concepts.

4 – 4.45pm (Sainsbury Wing Theatre)
Art and the Religious Imagination: A Conversation with Rowan William

Art historian Deborah Lewer holds a wide-ranging conversation with the noted theologian, poet and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

4.30 – 5pm (Room 61)
A Victorian Michelangelo: The Global Legacy of G. F. Watts’s Symbolism
Gursimran Oberoi, Collaborative Doctoral Award Researcher, University of Surrey and Watts Gallery, explores how values of global significance were seen to be embodied in Watts’s symbolist pictures.


In collaboration with the Art History Festival, Curzon Home Cinema curated a collection of films that celebrate and explore art history. From the beauty on display in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Frida Kahlo and Beyond the Visible: Hilma Af Klint, to Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir and use of its titular painting, to Frederick Wiseman and Alexander Sokurov’s musings on the nature of artistic spaces in National Gallery and Francofonia. Register for a free account and discover more about the collection here.

The Art Film Festival ran throughout September 2021.


 – Blackness in Contemporary African Art Practice

This panel considers ways in which contemporary African artists, curators and writers deal with the question of Blackness in their work. It asks how an African experience of Blackness differs from that of the diaspora, and from country to country. The presentations consider a continent-specific account of Blackness through relationships with spirituality, ancestry, (settler) colonialism and Black womanhood. Speakers include Nomusa Makhubu, Minna Salami and Suzana Sousa. The panel is chaired by Portia Malatjie, Adjunct Curator of Africa and African Diaspora at the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational.

TATE – Making Sense of Place: How Artists Map a Transnational World

Maps are often thought of as objective, scientific depictions of a particular place, showing important landmarks and the relative distances between them. Maps can show us borders and divisions, but also connections and shared spaces. The way we use maps also presents cultural conventions and different points of views, reflecting changes across time and place. Artists have used the idea of mapping as a way of understanding the world as a complex entity with entangled relationships. In this film, three Adjunct Curators from the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational look at artists who are imaginatively mapping and remapping the world. In different ways, they show us the world as an interconnected and continuously changing transnational space. Featuring: Daniella Rose King, Adjunct Curator of Caribbean Diasporic Art; Portia Malatjie, Adjunct Curator of Africa and African Diaspora; and Pablo José Ramírez, Adjunct Curator, First Nations and Indigenous Art. Research is supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor.

Arts Council Collection – Panel Discussion: Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945: An Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition
This pre-recorded informal workshop provided an early opportunity to gain insight into the Arts Council Collection’s touring exhibition, Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945. Spanning seventy-five years and exploring the work of fifty sculptors, Breaking the Mould is the first extensive survey of post-war British sculpture by women in a public institution.

The workshop begins with an introduction to the exhibition by Natalie Rudd, Senior Curator of the Arts Council Collection. She is joined by Bianca Chu, independent curator, consultant and representative of the Kim Lim Estate, Dr Abi Shapiro, Assistant Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield, and Dr Sarah Turner, Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre, and co-writer and co-presenter of the Sculpting Lives podcast series.

National Galleries Scotland: Why are there so few female artists?

The ten most expensive paintings in history were painted by men. And of the $196 billion spent on art at auction in the last decade, women accounted for only 2% of sales. So why are so few female artists represented in the world of art?

In this new series of five films, Questions about Art, National Galleries Scotland explore some frequent musings about art -using questions asked by their audiences. What makes a painting iconic? Who decides what art is worth? Why can’t I touch artworks when I’m in a gallery? For more videos, take a look at their website or YouTube channel.

National Galleries Scotland: Tour of Artist’s Books at the National Galleries Scotland


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