History of Art


Dr Maja Fowkes



A woman with short brown hair, wearing a white shirt in front of a printed background

Maja Fowkes is an Associate Professor (Teaching) in the Department of History of Art and Principal Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies. Her research centres on artistic engagements with climate and ecological crisis in contemporary art and the environmental art history of the twentieth century. She is co-author of the Thames & Hudson World of Art series publications on Art and Climate Change (2022) and Central and Eastern European Art Since 1945 (2020), as well as the author of The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism (2015). In addition to publishing widely, she curates contemporary art exhibitions, including ‘Potential Agrarianisms’ at Kunsthalle Bratislava (2021), and co-hosts the UCL podcast Left to be Desired. She is Principal Investigator for the Socialist Anthropocene in the Visual Arts (SAVA), a Horizon Europe / UKRI research project at UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

Contact Details

Office: Postsocialist Art Centre, Room 17, First Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building 
Office Hours: By appointment 
Email: m.fowkes@ucl.ac.uk


Associate Professor (Teaching)
Dept of History of Art /
Principal Research Fellow
UCL Institute of Advanced Studies

Research Themes

Art and ecology, contemporary art and climate change, twentieth century history of environmental art, art and the Anthropocene, Central and Eastern European art, socialist art


Maja is interested in artistic engagements with ecological issues, and particularly in exploring how artists have responded to the social and environmental transformations of the Anthropocene era, from addressing the impact of industrial modernity on the natural world to confronting the planetary implications of climate breakdown.   

Published in Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series and co-authored with Reuben Fowkes, Art and Climate Change (2022) discusses contemporary art practices from across the globe dealing with climate change, Anthropocene, botanical politics, species extinction and pathways to climate adaptation contextualised in eco-critical theory. The book considers research based and situated art practices that address the Anthropocene and its detrimental impact on the planet’s climate, from scenes of nature decimated by ongoing extinction events and landscapes turned to waste by extraction, to art coming out of the communities most affected by the environmental injustice of climate change. The edited book, Ilona Németh: Eastern Sugar (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2021) investigates parallels between the social and environmental histories of sugar beet and sugar cane in post-socialist Eastern Europe and the post-colonial Caribbean.  

Her monograph The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology Under Socialism (2015) is a comparative analysis of artistic engagements with ecology in the 1960s and 1970s, through five case studies from Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. She also co-authored with Reuben Fowkes the Thames & Hudson World of Art series book on Central and Eastern European Art Since 1945, which puts forward a comparative outline of Central and East European art from post-war socialist realism and neo-avant-garde art to post-communist contemporary art, from a decolonial and de-centralising perspective. 

Maja is Principal Investigator for the Socialist Anthropocene in the Visual Arts (SAVA), a Horizon Europe / UK Research and Innovation research project that brings together art historians, environmental historians and contemporary artists to investigate the distinctive environmental histories of socialist states in the twentieth century. Looking beyond Central and Eastern Europe to consider the entwined environmental and art histories of Soviet Central Asia, the Baltic States, and former socialist countries in Africa and the Latin America, the SAVA project sets out to illuminate the distinctive socialist trajectories of the Anthropocene through the lens of art history and contemporary art. More information about the SAVA project, including opportunities to get involved, can be found here.


Selected Publications


Art and Climate Change (London: Thames & Hudson, 2022).

Central and East European Art since 1950 (London: Thames & Hudson, 2020).

The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism (New York: Central University Press, 2015) 

Edited publications

Ilona Németh: Eastern Sugar (Berlin: Sternberg Press / MIT Press, 2021).

Book chapters

‘Art History in a Suitcase: The Itinerary of Art Trends in Socialist Art Criticism,’ in Marina Dmitrieva, Beata Hock and Antje Kempe, eds, Universal - International - Global: Art Historiographies of Socialist Eastern Europe (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2023), 35-51.

How to Write a Global History of Central and Eastern European Art,’ in Agata Jakubowska and Magdalena Radomska, eds, Horizontal Art History and Beyond: Revising Peripheral Critical Practices (London: Routledge, 2022), 111-122.

The Politics and Ecology of Invasive Species: A Changing Climate for Pioneering Plants,’ in T. J. Demos, Emily Eliza Scott, and Subhankar Banerjee, eds, Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change (New York: Routledge, 2021), 332-341.

‘Facing the Unprotectable: Emergency Democracy for Post-Glacial Landscapes,’ in Barnaby Drabble, ed., Along Ecological Lines: Contemporary Art and Climate Crisis (Manchester: GAIA Books, 2019).

‘The Post-National in East European Art: From Socialist Internationalism to Transnational Communities,’ in Ana Janevski, Roxana Marcoci and Ksenia Nouril, eds, Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: A Critical Anthology (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2018). 

‘Towards a Planetary History of East European Art,' in Beata Hock and Anu Allas, eds, Globalizing East European Art Histories: Past and Present (London: Routledge, 2018).

‘Liberty Controlled: Institutional Settings of the East European Neo-avant-garde,’ in Sándor Hornyik, Edit Sasvári and Hedwig Turai, eds, Doublespeak: Hungarian Art of the 1960s and 1970s (London: Thames & Hudson, 2018). 

Journal articles

Decolonising Central European Nature: A Hereish Perspective,’ special issue on decolonization of Ars Hungarica vol.43 no.4 (2017), 

The Primeval Cosmic River and its Ecological Realities: On the curatorial project Danube River School (2013-2015),' Geohumanities vol.2 no.2 (2016), pp. 453–468.

‘Placing Bookmarks: The Institutionalisation and De-Institutionalisation of Hungarian Neo-Avant-Garde and Contemporary Art,’ Tate Papers, no.26 (2016).

Catalogue texts

‘Art for Earth's Sake: Fifty Years of Saving the Planet,’ in Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis (Hayward Gallery: London, 2023).

Not Another Trojan Horse of Cultural Diplomacy, or Restaging Art and Politics in the Aftermath of Socialist Modernity in the Films of Jasmina Cibic,’ in Jasmina Cibic. Most Favoured Nation (Salzburg: Museum der Moderne, 2022).

‘In Bright Sunshine,’ in Jerome Bazin and Joanna Kordjak, eds, Cold Revolution: Central and Eastern European Societies in Times of Socialist Realism, 1948-1959 (Warsaw: Zachęta National Gallery of Art, 2021).

‘No Art on a Dead Planet,’ in Oliver Ressler: Barricading the Ice Sheets (Vienna: Camera Austria, 2020). 

‘Raising the Ecological Emergency Flag,’ in Jindřich Chalupecký Award 2019 (Prague: Jindřich Chalupecký Society, 2019).

‘Unsalvageable Futures of the Debrisphere,’ in Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan: Debrisphere (Bucharest: Punch, 2019).

‘Intentionally Contemporary: Expanded Horizons of the Hungarian Neo-Avant-Garde,’ in Katalin Székely, ed., Bookmarks: Revisiting Hungarian Art of the 1960s and 1970s (London: Koenig Books, 2019). 

Working with Trouble: Reassembled Landscapes of History and Nature,’ in Rainer Fuchs, ed., Natural Histories (Vienna: Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, 2017).

'Performative practices in East European art in the 1960s,' in Eckhart Gillen and Peter Weibel, eds, Facing the Future: Art in Europe 1945-68 (Brussels: Bozar, Karlsruhe: ZKM, 2016)

Art criticism

‘Art Criticism at 422 ppm,’ Review of Kent Chan at Gasworks and Tomás Saraceno at the Serpentine Gallery, London, Texte zur Kunst (Berlin) no.131 (September 2023), 112-115.

We Must Cultivate Our Garden Differently: Horticultural Politics in the Anthropocene,’ Flash Art (Czech and Slovak edition) (July 2023).

Ecological Uncodings: Decolonizing Digital Futures,’ Springerin (Vienna) no.3 (2021), 

‘Review of Demo Moving Image Festival,’ Art Monthly no. 439 (September 2020). 

‘The Art Critic under Populism: Confronting the Post-Democratic Turn in Central Europe,’ Paletten (December 2019). 

‘Review of Southern Constellations: The Poetics of the Non-Aligned,’ Art Monthly no. 427 (June 2019).


Teaching and Supervision

Maja teaches the final year special subject module on Contemporary Art and Climate Change.

She is interested in supervising doctoral students working on art practices around climate change, ecology and the Anthropocene, as well as students dealing with the art histories of the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.

Prospective students should contact her directly to discuss their proposals.


Maja is Associate Professor (Teaching) in the Department of History of Art and Principal Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, where she codirects the Postsocialist Art Centre. She received her PhD in History of Art from UCL in 2013. During time spent in Hungary, she co-founded the independent research centre Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art and lectured at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and Central European University. She has been a Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies since 2018, where she initiated the Getty Foundation Connecting Art Histories supported collective research project Confrontations: Sessions in East European Art History. Her research and curatorial activities are archived on the website.