History of Art


Tom Snow

Tom Snow

LAHP funded PhD candidate


BA (Hons) History of Art Asia, Africa, Europe (School of Oriental and African Studies/University College London)

MA History of Art (University College London)


Istanbul 2009-2013: Activism and the Politics of Art in the Neoliberal Economy

Given the anti-capitalist/neoliberal gestures of many artworks and exhibitions currently, critics have mainly focused on contradictions concerning faux-philanthropy of corporate multinationals in context of the contemporary political economy. According to now standardised narratives of neoliberalism, institutions reflect greater dismantling of public sector structures revealing socially-engaged artists to have simply replaced public sector social workers. Yet to what degree can this criticism stand in a country that has no history of state funding for contemporary arts? Focusing on Istanbul 2009-2013, I reflect on moments that urban activism have collided with art practices and two major biennial exhibitions, contextualised by a long decade of protest and financial crises. How can integration of critical practices into a relatively new neoliberal institutional apparatuses be thought about in a context that does not conform simply to free market ideology, but is instead haunted by a kind of neo-Ottoman political Islam? And how might the post-representative politics of critical artworks and contemporary social movements, including Occupy Gezi Park 2013, break with a discourse on democracy; one that so far has been defined only by what it continuously fails to achieve?

Research Interests

Activism, aesthetics, contemporary art, critical theory, curatorial politics, feminism, globalisation, institutionalism, Marxism, political economy, political science, representation, social movements, visual culture.

Research Activities

'Art and Radical Democracy After Occupy: A panel discussion concerning the politics of democracy in the post-Occupy moment,' symposium organised with TJ Demos, Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art UCL, Saturday 7th December 2013. Speakers: Chantal Mouffe, Gavin Grindon, Mark Fisher, Tom Snow. Chaired by TJ Demos.

'Protest/Refuge/Conflict Now: Spatial, Material, and Visual Implications in the MENA Region,' symposium organised with Eray Çaylı, Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art UCL, and Research Fund Bartlett School of Architecture UCL.

Speakers: Özden Şahin, Tom Snow, Lorenzo Pezzani, Eray Çaylı, Samar Maqusi, Adrian Lahoud. Chaired by Alan Ingram and Peg Rawes.

Editor of UCL History of Art Graduate Journal, Object no.17 (forthcoming, 2015), with Sena Lee.

Research Groups

International New Media Gallery

Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art UCL

Editorial Correspondent at Ibraaz

Research Themes

Art, Design, and Architecture; Heritage, Histories, and Cultures; Intercultural Interaction; Justice, Ethics and Human Rights; Thoughts, Beliefs & Philosophy.


'Disobedient Objects' in Object no. 17 (2015) 128-130

'SALTWATER: A Theory of Through Forms, The 14th Istanbul Biennial 2015,' Ibraaz (September 2015)

'Art, Institutionalism, and the Politics of Publicity' in Work in Public, ed. Rachel Alliston (Berlin: Press LMP, [forthcoming, 2015])

'Culture Now: Renzo Martens at the ICA,' Ibraaz (February 2015)

'13th Istanbul Biennial: A Retreat to the Institution,' Afterall online (November 2013)

'Corinne Silva: The Uncompromising Image,' in Corinne Silva: Wandering Abroad, Edwin Coomarasu ed. (London: International New Media Gallery, 2013)

'Notes on A Short Film About War,' in Thompson & Craighead: A Short Film About War, Edwin Coomarasu ed. (London: International New Media Gallery, 2013)

Edited Volumes

[with Sena Lee] Object, no.17 (2015)

Edwin Coomasaru and Tom Snow eds. Amy Balkin: (In)Visible Matter (London: International New Media Gallery, 2014)

Tom Snow ed. Ronnie Close: WE ARE HERE (London: International New Media Gallery, 2015)


2015-2016 - 19th and 20th Century Art in London (HART1605, spring term)

2014 - MA mentor

2013-2014 - Teaching assistant, BA1 Core Course (HART1001 History of Art and its Objects)