MA, PhD (Courtauld, University of London) 


Professor, Modern and Contemporary Department; Head, Graduate Diploma

Contact details

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House


London WC2R 0RN

+44 (0)20 7 848 2142

Sarah Wilson is an art historian and curator whose interests extend from postwar and Cold War Europe and the USSR to contemporary global art. In 2014 she was appointed to the curatorial team of the Fifth Guangzhou Triennale / 1st Asian Biennale, Guangzhou.


She was educated at the University of Oxford (English Literature) and at the Courtauld where she took her MA and Ph.D degrees.


In 1997 she was appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for services to French art and culture. She held a chaire d’excellence at the Université de Versailles-Saint Quentin in 2012-2013, where the research project 'Globalisation before globalisation: avant-gardes, academies, revolutions' culminated with the conference concept 'Network Beaux-Arts; going global (Paris and London 2013). This continues and relates to current 'Artists discover China' proposals for Guangzhou. The Cold War heritage as it plays out (see 'The World goes Pop' Tate 2015) is a constant interest. 'The Visual World of French Theory II: interventions' (in preparation) will challenge the 'Figurations' volume, with an emphasis on conceptual art, performance and film.


Sarah Wilson is proud of the exceptional achievements of her former students and highly committed to the Courtauld Alumni Association and its activities all over the world.     



MA - Global Conceptualism, the last avant-garde or a new beginning?; Graduate Diploma - Beyond Black, Contemporary Culture in Britian Now - BA 2 Texts and Contexts, Mallarmé to Matisse

Phd students: current

  • Jessica Eisenthal, Temporal Dissonance in Contemporary Israeli Photography and Video.
  • Sarah Hegenbart, Art in Action: Christoph Schlingensief’s Opera Village Africa and its  relation to contemporary art practice.
  • Katarina Lichvarova, Father and Son, Pivarov and Pepperstein.
  • Sooyoung Leam: Lee Seung-Taek: Reconfiguring Avant-garde Art in Post-war Korea.

Phd students: Recently completed


  • Aliya Abakayeva de Tiesenhausen, Socialist Realist Orientalism? Depictions of Soviet Central Asia, 1934-1954 2010.
  • Kyung An, Identities contested: Contemporary Korean art and its exhibitions, 1961-1975, 2015.
  • Rakhee Balaram, Femmes Révolutionnaires: Women and art in 1970s France, 2009.
  • Matthew Barr, Michel Foucault and Visual Art, 1954-1988, 2007.
  • Elizaveta Butakhova, A-YA magazine: Soviet unofficial art between Moscow, Paris and New York, 1976-1986, 2015.
  • Martina Caruso, Miseria, Misericordia, Mascolinità: Italian Humanist Photography, 1932-1959, 2012.
  • Nicholas Cullinan, The Archeology of Knowledge: Excavating Arte Povera, 2010.
  • Jacopo Galimberti, Collective Art: Politics and Authorship in 1960s Western Europe,1957-1968, 2012.
  • Mireya E. Lewin, Antoni Tàpies and cultural identity: between the national and the international, 2009.
  • Hester Westley, Traditions and Transmissions: St Martin's Sculpture Department, 1960-1969, 2007.
  • Nadim Samman, Between the Gulag and the Guggenheim: (post) Soviet artists and New York in the 1980s and 1990s, 2011.
  • Sylwia Serafinowicz-Wesołowska, More than Documentation: Photography from the People's Republic of Poland,1965-1972, 2015.

Research Interests


  • Post war Eastern and Western European art
  • Cold War heritages including in USSR/Russia and China
  • Contemporary art and its memories
  • Academies and avant-gardes, 20th and 21st centuries

Recent Publications




  • Picasso, Marx and Socialist Realism in France, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2013
  • The Visual World of French Theory: Figurations
  • New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2010
  • Matisse, Barcelona, Ediciones Poligrafa 2009





  • 'Heureux hasards conceptuels: Jacques Monory en Angleterre', Jacques Monory, Paris, Fonds Leclerc, pp. 107-111



  • 'Post-colonial Rococo: Yinka Shonibare MBE plays Fragonard', in Melissa Hyde, Katie Scott eds. Rococo Echo: Art, Theory and Historiography, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, pp. 313-328
  • Des meilleurs ennemis au "Jardin d'amour":, Art et artistes à Paris et à Londres,
    Nos meilleurs ennemis : L'entente culturelle franco-britannique revisitée
    Diana Cooper-Richet and Michel Rapoport eds., Paris, Atlande, pp. 81-99
  • 'Klossowski our Contemporary', foreword to Hervé Castanet, 'Pierre Klossowski. The Pantomime of Spirits', J.B.Bullen ed., Cultural Interactions. Studies in the Relationship between the Arts, vol. 22, 2014, pp. ix-xxv
  • 'Tears, Tirs, Ricochets', Camille Morineau ed., Niki de Saint Phalle, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, pp. 92-101, 359-360
  • 'Judit Reigl, of signs, of men and of angels, Julia Fabéni ed., Judit Reigl, Budapest, Ludwig Museum, pp. 68-93
  • 'A very great sculptor: Germaine Richier', Germaine Richier, New York, Dominique Lévy, Galerie Perrotin, pp. 10-17
  • "Délit de témoignage": André Fougeron à travers un siècle', in Bruno Gaudichon ed., André Fougeron. 1913-1998. Voilà qui fait problème vrai, Roubaix, La Piscine / Montreuil, Gourcoff Gradenigo, pp. 25-59




  • 'Loyalty and Blood. Picasso's FBI File', in Jonathan Harris and Richard Koeck eds., Picasso and the Politics of Visual Representation :War and Peace in the era of Cold War and since, Liverpool University Press, Tate Livepool Critical Forum, pp. 110-124
  • 'Bergson before Deleuze: how to read informel painting, Charlotte de Mille and John Mullarky eds., Bergson and the Art of Immanence: Painting, Photography, Film, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2013, pp.80-93
  • 'Lyotard, Monory: Postmodern Romantics'(in Herman Parret ed Jean-François Lyotard, Wrtitng on Contemporary Art and Artists vol VI, L'assassinat de l'expérience par la peinture – Monory / The Assassination of Experience by Painting – Monory, Leuven, University of Leuven Press (updated version, bilingual), pp. 196-253
  • 'Art, Artefact and Empire Thirty Glorious years in France', Oxford Art Journal,volume 36, issue 2, 2013, pp. 310-312 (book review)
  • 'The Expanded Seam; the Song of the Shirt', Pip Culbert, Galerie Kamila Regent,




  • 'Comintern spin doctor' Willi Münzenberg, artiste en révolution, 1889-1940, 2008, English Historical Review, vol. CXXVII , 526, June 2012, pp. 662-668
  • 'French socialist realism,1945-1970', in Matthew Bown, Matteo Lafranconi eds., Socialist Realisms.Soviet Painting 1920-1970, Milan, Skira, 2012, pp. 247-253
  • 'Moscow Romantic exceptionalism : the suspension of disbelief', Boris Groys ed., Moscow Symposium, Conceptualism revisited , e-flux journal, New York, Sternberg Press, pp.102-123




  • 'Silver Scales, Silver Ink, Quicksilver Traces: Lucia Joyce'; 'Tilly Losch, reaching for intersubjective frontiers' (with Adrien Sina) in Sina ed., Feminine Futures Performance Dance War Politics and Eroticism, Dijon, Les Presses du Réel,
    pp. 406-415, 416-418

*See personal website

Recent Major Grants

  • 2012-2013 Marie Curie Actions - RBUCE-UP, Chaire d'excellence, Université de Versailles-Saint Quentin, 'Globalisation before Globalisation: avant-gardes, academies, revolutions'

Other current/Ongoing Professional Activities


  • Curator, fifth Guangzhou Triennale/ first Asia Biennale GDMoA (China) 2015
  • Executive committee, AICA (Internatonal Association of Art Critics, British branch
  • Advisory Board, Department of Art History, New European University, Saint Petersburg.
  • Metamatic Research Initiative, Amsterdam

* Vist Sarah Wilson's own website: