Art History research interests

Browse the research interests of staff in the Art History programme.

For detailed research interests and lists of publications, click on the staff name which will direct you to their respective staff page.


The Art History Programme at Victoria University of Wellington undertakes a broad range and depth of research informed by the belief that the art, geography, history and culture of this region provides a unique perspective on the world. We connect the arts of Moana Oceania with studies in modernity and contemporary practice exchanging ideas across critical disciplines and cultural communities. The programme was established in 1995 and since then has built a reputation for the depth of its engagement with art and culture and its critical approaches to art history in Aotearoa New Zealand and the world beyond. Its close-knit and dynamic community of researchers extends into the creative sectors of Te-Whanganui-a-Tara and Aotearoa. Academic staff are actively involved in the following research areas:

Art, Climate Change and the Environment

This research strand examines how human and nonhuman relationships with the environment have changed dramatically since the Holocene. Artists work to make sense of these transformations whether they are found inscribed in landscapes of ice, the remnants of bird populations, or traced in visual stories of people, oceans, and sea-level rise. Research in this field connects art practices to science, environmental histories, ecocriticism, ecomedia, and fiction and nonfiction story-telling. It asks how art contributes to and challenges our understanding of nature and the environment. It is concerned with art of the present, and considers art made today and what it can tell us about our past, and our collective, more-than-human, futures.

Art in Oceania

Coined in the nineteenth century, 'Oceania' was a European word which has been re-appropriated by Pacific intellectuals in the twentieth century to name, among other things, a new way of thinking about art in history. Rather than land-locked, culture-bound, nation-centric or stuck in a linear narrative of history, the 'new Oceania' recognises the mobility and relationality of Pacific arts and peoples in their engagements with each other and the wider world. It recognises the rememberings and forgettings involved in the work of historical consciousness, whether weaving a mat or writing a thesis. Researching art in Oceania is multi-pronged, focusing on topics such as art and cross-cultural encounters, museums and Pacific collections, indigenous modernisms and contemporary Pacific art.

Surrealism and its Legacies

Surrealism provides a prism that diffracts and unsettles art and its histories, occupying a central place in the history of twentieth-century art as an avant-garde movement engaged with the impact of global modernity. Against a resurgence of nationalism and xenophobia, surrealism established a cosmopolitan platform to question notions of personal and cultural identity in favour of alterity and difference. Areas of research strength are the culture and politics of surrealism; transnational responses to surrealism in the Antipodes; surrealism and Oceania; and the legacy of surrealism in modern and contemporary art.

Art and Aotearoa New Zealand

Understanding art from our perspective in Aotearoa New Zealand is critical to all research undertaken in the Art History Programme. This research area acknowledges and interrogates the narratives of art that have been produced here and offers insights into the issues, challenges, ideas and approaches artists have addressed and taken through the charged histories of encounter, settlement, nation-building, decolonisation and globalisation that mark the emergence of Aotearoa New Zealand as a distinctive place. This research strand brings together our work with that of the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi and the New Zealand Art Research and Study Centre. Our research in this field encompasses the idea of ‘placemaking’ in its various guises, cross-cultural exchange, conceptual and post-conceptual practices, the cultural dynamics that structure the ‘art world’, and an applied understanding of the contexts within which art is produced and consumed. Our research encompasses traditional and non-traditional research outputs, we curate exhibitions, and encourage all forms of critical art writing and publishing.