History and theory of art and design
The meanings of historical artefacts are not just fixed at the point of production — they change through time. Artefacts can have multiple and sometimes conflicting meanings.
Our research in the History and Theory of Art and Design locates the historical production and consumption of art and design in wider social, cultural, political and economic contexts. We have a particular interest in curation and exhibitions.
Research covers the following topics
- History of art
- Art history
- Art theory
- History of design
- Design history
- Design theory
- Domestic Design
- History of the home
- House histories
- Design epistemology
- Design process
- Curatorial practice
Our primary research is conducted in museums, galleries and archives on historical artefacts and related documentation. We use qualitative research techniques, such as ethnography, visual and textual analysis. We also use practice and theoretical research in curation.
Collaborations and funders
We've worked with the Wellcome Trust, the V&A museum and others to curate exhibitions using their large collections. We've also supervised of completed AHRC collaborative doctoral awards with Hampton Court Palace.
The Wellcome Collection’s exhibition ‘Brains: The Mind as Matter’, was directly informed by our research and the curatorial practice of guest curator, Dr. Marius Kwint. Marcus also co-curated the acclaimed Biennale collateral event ‘Frontiers Re-Imagined: Art that Connects Us’.
Professor Sugg Ryan is series consultant and onscreen expert to the BBC Two documentary series, ‘A House Through Time’ (Twenty Twenty Television). She was also consultant to Signify for a campaign on the EU halogen bulb ban, based on her report on 50 obsolete objects in the home.
Recent funders for our work include the British Academy, Paul Mellon Centre and the Henry Moore Foundation.
Recent project highlights include
Discover our areas of expertise
History and theory of art and design is one of our 6 areas of expertise within our Art and Design: History, Theory and Practice research. Explore the others below.
Our fashion and textiles research is addressing important issues around fashion and textile design and its associated industries.
Our research is looking at the history of design, and ethnographic studies in relation to design, design usability, legibility studies, design knowledge, and epistemology.
We're exploring how self-publishing allows a more diverse range of authors to communicate with an audience – and how zines and artist's books can tackle non-traditional subjects.
Concepts such as taste are the product of cultural and social forces – and through our visual and material culture research, we're working to uncover the concepts at work.
Interested in a PhD in Art & Design?
Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Art & Design postgraduate research degrees page.