Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Talk & Discussion: Insertion, Intervention or In-disciplinarity?

08 May 2024, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

A light installation on a wall that reads: All Art Has Been Contemporary

Join us for a talk and discussion with archaeologist Alice Stevenson on contemporary art and the display of ancient Egypt.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students






Natassja Simensky


IAS Forum, G17
Ground floor, South WIng Wilkins Building
UCL, Gower St, London

Whenever twentieth-century modern art or new contemporary artworks are included amongst displays of ancient Egypt, press statements often assert that such juxtapositions are ‘surprising’, ‘innovative’, and ‘fresh’. But contemporary art’s relationship with museums and other disciplines needs to be understood in a longer-term perspective. Pairings of twentieth- and twenty-first-century artistic works with objects of antiquity is an activity that has been undertaken for more than a century in what has been a long period of mutually reinforcing influences between modern/contemporary art, museum display, the art market, and Egyptian heritage. Together, they have decontextualised ancient Egyptian culture and shaped the language and perspectives of scholars, curators, and artists. In this paper, rather than considering how artists have been inspired by ancient Egypt, I will give examples of how more recent art practices have impacted upon the language and discourse of museum representation. Then, using more recent artist engagements , I argue for greater interdisciplinary dialogues between artists, academics and curators as a means of sharing in the critical processes rather than just outcomes of artistic practice.

About the Speaker

Alice Stevenson

at UCL Institute of Archaeology

Alice Stevenson is Professor of Museum Archaeology at UCL's Institute of Archaeology. She was formerly Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archaeology and Researcher in World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Her recent research on the relationships between museum archaeology and contemporary art was funded through a British Academy mid-Career Fellowship. She is author of books such as Scattered Finds: Archaeology, Egyptology and Museums (2019, UCL Press), editor of The Oxford Handbook of Museum Archaeology (2022, OUP) and co-editor of the journal Museum Anthropology.

More about Alice Stevenson