History of Art


UCL History of Art Alumni Newsletter Winter 2023

History of Art Alumni

Newsletter Contents:


Department News

Alumni Spotlights

We would love to hear from you!

Happy New Year from our Head of Department, Bob Mills

Welcome to this latest edition of our alumni newsletter.

As 2023 begins I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy New Year. Thank you also to everyone who continues to support the Department and share their news within this forum.

Snow arrived in Gordon Square just before Christmas, and I enjoyed the wintry views from my office windows. I do hope that the warmth and spirit of the festive season was enjoyed by you all, as members of our alumni community. 

I’m excited to announce here that our brand new Master’s programme, the MSc Conservation of Contemporary Art and Media, is now open for applications and will be accepting students from September. This degree, the first of its kind in the UK, will be taught in bespoke facilities at UCL’s new campus in Stratford, UCL East. If you are interested in hearing more about the programme, please be in touch with the programme director, Professor Pip Laurenson or check it out in the Postgraduate Prospectus. And please do help spread the word.

Also included in this newsletter are several alumni spotlights, an update on research events and activities in the Department, and information about new staff and other developments. I do hope you enjoy catching up on the latest news about the Department and some of our former students. Please do get in touch if you have any news to share in a future edition!

Finally, I’d again like to wish you a wonderful year ahead.

Professor Bob Mills, Head of UCL History of Art
January 2023

Bob Mills

Image: Professor Bob Mills

New MSc in Conservation of Contemporary Art and Media

The department is delighted that our new MSc Conservation of Contemporary Art and Media will be launching at UCL East in September 2023.

The programme will produce contemporary art conservators who will be ready to address the challenges of caring for the art of our time within a rapidly changing world. The degree focuses on the conservation of contemporary sculpture, installation, time-based media works of art and design including conceptual, performance, digital and mixed media works.  

The content of the programme will reflect current debates that are impacting the way in which we conserve, steward and care for contemporary art, design and media, thinking about the values and histories that underpin conservation practice, and urgent challenges facing the sector more broadly. This thinking underpins a programme that is fundamentally grounded in hands-on training for real-world situations.

The programme has links to a range of organisations both in the UK and internationally supporting student placements.  

The programme is led by Professor Pip Laurenson who joined the department early last year

"UCL East is such an exciting place to be delivering a conservation programme designed for the future leaders in the field of contemporary art conservation. The campus offers brand new dedicated spaces and facilities, it is buzzing with interdisciplinary potential for research and learning and it supports a programme that is rooted in our partnerships with museums and galleries both in the UK and Internationally." - Professor Pip Laurenson, Director of MSc Conservation of Contemporary Art and Media

Pip Laurenson

Image: Professor Pip Laurenson

Professor Tamar Garb: Spotlight on Research Events

Research remains at the core of what we do in the History of Art Department at UCL. We are lucky to be able to teach from our research interests and to design new courses that reflect our current concerns, both individually and collectively. Our work has become increasingly global and we are committed to creating a diverse and representative research culture that hosts speakers and interlocutors from across the world, addressing issues that extend beyond the old Euro/American parameters of art history in the UK.  The department maintains a thriving research environment, which manifests most obviously via our busy schedule of research events. Last term, we ran a total of 17 research events, featuring an array of exciting guest speakers. 

Our Research Seminar Series saw us welcome Sophie Berrebi (University of Amsterdam), Patricia Rubin (Professor Emerita of Fine Arts at NYU), Kamini Vellodi (Edinburgh College of Art) and N’Goné Fall (independent curator and cultural policies specialist, Dakar and Paris) for stimulating presentations and discussion on topics ranging from curatorial practice and feminism, art theory and historiography, nineteenth century reworkings of Raphael and the cultural festival ‘Africa 2020’ hosted across France . Looking ahead to 2023, we are delighted to have Research Seminars scheduled with Tamara Trodd (Edinburgh College of Art), Mark Crinson (Birkbeck, University of London), Dominic Johnson (Queen Mary, University of London) and Heather Pulliam (Edinburgh College of Art). The range of topics stretches from the medieval to the contemporary, and from Johannesburg to Manchester.

The Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art (CSCA) kicked off the 2022-23 academic year with their annual lecture, where guest speaker Ming Tiampo (Carleton University, Ottawa) delivered Mobile Subjects Contrapuntal Modernisms. Also organised by CSCA, in November the department was delighted to host a number of conversations with contemporary artists including Michael Armitage and  William Kentridge, which coincided with William Kentridge's exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, which ran from 24 September — 11 December 2022. Visits and panels were held at the Nancy Spero show (Frith Street Gallery) and the Sasha Huber show (Autograph).

The Past Imperfect Seminar hosted Emily Doucet (The British Library) in October for her talk 'Letters by the Reel': Microfilm and the Mail, followed by Yessica Porras in December for her talk Visual Reverberations between the Public and Private in the Murals of the Choir of Santa Clara la Real. Both CSCA and Past Imperfect are run with the support of our PhD co-ordinators, Danae Filioti and Millie Horton-Insch. 

Looking ahead to 2023, we’re delighted to be welcoming alumna Sanjukta Sunderason for the 2023 Tomás Harris Visiting Professorship; Sanjukta will deliver two lectures in May, as well as a workshop for our PGR students. There will also be Research Seminars, CSCA and Past Imperfect events, PGR student upgrades and Brown Bag Lunches where we hear from colleagues who are recently returned from sabbaticals about their new research. Do also keep an eye out for your imminent invite to the 2023 Nikos Stangos Memorial Lecture – details are still being finalised, but this usually takes place over the summer and is a fantastic event where we are always delighted to see many of our alumni. 

Our alumni community is warmly encouraged to attend our public research events – full details about the schedule can be found on our website. We love it when past students attend and participate in the conversations and debates which are so central to the life of the department. 

Professor Tamar Garb, Director of Research 
January 2023 

Tamar Garb

Image: Professor Tamar Garb

Update from the History of Art Society

Update from 2021-22 History of Art Society President, Emilie

Last year, History of Art Society had a clear goal of engaging with students across UCL to those who were not previously affiliated with History of Art. As we returned to campus after online learning, we wanted to take full advantage of in-person events ranging from social and careers to collaborations with other UCL societies. We were met with amazing enthusiasm and gained 375 members within the first term, over triple our initial goal. 

One of the most memorable events of last academic year was the collaboration with the Diplomacy Society when we organised a trip to the British Museum. Led by Dr Aparna Kumar, Lecturer in Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South (Department of History of Art), the event focused on how artworks and artefacts are inextricably linked to diplomacy and our group participated in a dynamic discussion with each other on the implications and importance of the objects in today’s world. Another highlight was our Head of Department, Bob Mills’ annual Queer walking tour of Bloomsbury in celebration of LGBT+ month in February. 

We also wanted to expand our scope of events from careers focused or academic talks to more interactive activities. Drawing Socials were hugely popular as members could draw and socialise, get to know each other better and relax after a long week. The events were also in line with our aim to raise awareness of mental wellbeing. In total, more than 50 students attended across two events and I hope it was a fun and relaxing opportunity for everyone. 

Career related events have also been a focus for History of Art Society last year. We wanted to make full use of the amazing resources we have, from Dr Aparna Kumar our Departmental Careers Tutor, Department staff, alumni as well as prominent figures in the Arts industry and beyond. Starting with Katy Hessel, our very own alumna who is a Curator, Writer, Broadcaster, Art Historian, Podcaster and Founder of @thegreatwomenartists on Instagram to Charlie Campbell-Gray, Junior Specialist at Christie’s London and Simon Smith, former Ambassador to Ukraine, Austria and South Korea, we were extremely lucky to hear from experts who shed light on many different aspects of art and culture and potential career paths for students. 

We were particularly excited to collaborate with many societies this year. With Art Society, we organised a trip to Tate Modern for The Making of Rodin exhibition. We have enjoyed a continuing relationship with Art Business Society throughout the year and were thrilled to organise events with Diplomacy Society twice; for the visit to the British Museum and speaker event with Simon Smith. 

Thank you so much to all of our members within the History of Art department and beyond, our contributors and external speakers, our amazing Departmental staff Eleanor Day, Helena Vowles-Shorrock and Robert Brown without whom we would not know what to do. And lastly, thank you to our wonderful committee, Harrie Chung, Apolline Amaudric du Chaffaut, Anastasiya Troshenkova and Jean-Jacques Girod-Roux for their hard work and friendship. 

Update from 2022-23 History of Art Society President, Jamila

Since September, the History of Art Society has managed to host a variety events that work to engage with students from any discipline and with any level of art historical knowledge. Although the society was originally only open to History of Art students, we can proudly say that the society has grown into a vast network of students that come from all disciplines. With this in mind, we aimed to host events that were approachable and more interactive to begin with. 

Beginning with Welcome Week, we hosted a charity booksale (with all proceeds going to the Art Refuge charity), a picnic and painting social as well as an exhibition visit to Maria Bartusova at Tate Modern. We were able to start off the year with such enthusiasm and large attendances at events. 

Following these initial events and after speaking to new members, the society aimed to produce a platform to make art around London appear more accessible. With this in mind, our first event beyond the Welcome Week was a Frieze sculpture walk; displaying the accessibility of art in London, we hosted a walk around Regent’s Park to see the incredible outdoor sculptures on display which allowed members to have a chance to meet as well as interact with public art. 

As well as creating interactive events, we wanted to ensure members felt that there was regularity and continuity with events and so we began a series; this series involved hosting film screenings with accompanied talks by departmental lecturers. We really wanted to highlight the incredible range of expertise within the History of Art department. We began with an incredible talk by Robert Mills alongside our film screening of Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio called “Always Contemporary: Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio and the Middle Ages out of Bounds” which touched on Jarman’s medievalist interest and used material from Robert Mill’s 2018 book, “Derek Jarman’s Medieval Modern”. The next event of the series will be led by Aparna Kumar who will also later be hosting a gallery visit to Cell Project Space with talks from the curator!

Our final event of the term was a guided tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Jameel Gallery where Benjamin Hinson, co-curator of Middle Eastern Art, walked us through the gallery and spotlighted Islamic art of the collection. Sharing the history of each object, the importance of Islamic art in the production of the V&A’s collection and the temporary North African Fashion display, the tour was truly amazing. 

Coming into the new academic year, we have plenty of plans and cannot wait to continue on the work we have started. We hope to continue our series of talks with lecturers, host larger socials such as our winter social, lead gallery visits with talks from the curators and create more interactive artistic activities. As such an accessible society with regular events, we hope to continue engaging with a larger scope of students and put on more events. Keep updated through our instagram page (@uclhoas) or get a free membership for the society to join our mailing list!

UCL History of Art student journalists produce content that links Art History and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

As part of our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), during summer 2022 we appointed three student journalists to create compelling content which links Art History and EDI. These student journalists each created three fantastic pieces of content each, which you can read via the links below: 

HoA student journalists

Spotlight on Julia Burbach

Combined BA History and History of Art, 2003

I joined UCL knowing that I had a strong creative drive, sensitivity to visual storytelling and passion for innovation. While I had secret ambitions to become a scenic director, I was very fearful to embark on this journey immediately after leaving school but UCL gave me a platform to explore my academic interest while starting to direct at the UCL drama society and choreographing at the UCL dance society. Since graduating, I have worked in multiple different capacities in the arts and culture industry. These have included being a production assistant to film producers, an assistant to art historians and working my way up through the london fringe theatre scene to the Royal Opera House, where I joined the permanent staff as an inhouse staff director in 2015. In the last two years, I have become fully freelance again and am now an international freelance opera and stage director working around the world. I started exploring my skills within the safe haven that was UCL and I use the skills I fine-tuned during my art history degree every day. The composition of a scene, the emotional impact of colour and balance, the meaning of poses and gestures, not to mention the close relationship I have with my designers when we create the worlds that give reason to the stories and protagonists. Art, art history and culture is part of my life every day and I feel privileged that I get to make a living with something so timeless, close to humanity and always evolving. I get much of my inspiration from walking through galleries and paintings are like old and new friends that speak to you and show you the way. 

Julia Burbach

Spotlight on Sam Vladimirsky

MA History of Art, 2020

I completed my Masters in the history of art in September 2020, cooped up in my home just outside New York and battleworn from months of remote learning & writing. After a brief stint at a photography gallery in Chelsea, I fell back in love with my original passion, documentary film. I began directing and editing short documentaries on art and culture for PBS, setting aside my curatorial ambitions, while still channeling the very best parts of my degree: falling down extensive research rabbit holes, working with contemporary artists, and telling stories about photography and film. My documentary "Family Legend" told the remarkable story behind the first Asian American film, while "LIFE & Death" traced LIFE Magazine's coverage of the Holocaust, visual reporting that (intentionally) failed to make any mention of the Jewish people. 

As a filmmaker, my hunger for a good story has taken me through the underground tunnels beneath the Met, inside the homes of New Yorker cartoonists, and onto remote farms, developing cities, gun ranges, catacombs, and costume shops. I currently live in Los Angeles, where I work for the Academy Award-winning Breakwater Studios, art directing our Oscars campaigns, managing our studio's brand, and organizing events & special projects.

Sam Vladimirsky

We would love to hear from you! 

We love hearing about all the exciting careers that our alumni have gone on to have and are always looking for opportunities to showcase these journeys! If you would be happy to be contacted about being featured in one of our 'Talking Heads' alumni videos, or doing a written profile for our website/newsletters (like the ones featured today) please get in touch with the current Communications and Events Manager