Dr Wenny Teo

Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art

Wenny Teo is a specialist in modern and contemporary art, with a particular emphasis on China and Chinese diasporas in transnational and global contexts. She received a BA in History of Art and English Literature from the University of York, a MA and PhD in History of Art from UCL (2011) and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). Prior to joining the Courtauld in 2012, she was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, and assistant curator at Tate Modern, and continues to work on various curatorial projects internationally. More recently, she co-curated A Beautiful Disorder, an exhibition of sixteen newly commissioned monumental sculptures by Greater Chinese artists at Cass Sculpture Foundation (2016) in Chichester, and was associate curator of We Have Never Participated: the 8th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennial in Shenzhen (2014). Her writing has been published in numerous academic journals, exhibition catalogues and art magazines, and she serves on several editorial boards, including Oxford Art Journal, for which she is also Book Reviews Editor (post-1800s).

She is currently preparing two scholarly monographs for publication. One World, One Dream: Contemporary Chinese Art and Global Politics (2008-2022), examines critical artistic responses to the State’s political ideology of national rejuvenation (the ‘Chinese Dream’ 中国梦) and its increasing dominance in global affairs, focusing on intermedial and digital practices by the new generation of Chinese artists born in the 1980s and 1990s whose work centre on a range of thematic concerns; such as the politics of infrastructure, surveillance, migrancies of labour, class, ethno-nationalism, ecology and epidemiology.

Wenny received a Paul Mellon Mid-career Fellowship in 2020 for her second book project, Kim Lim: Forms of Resistance and Relief, which will be the first scholarly monograph on the late Singapore-born British sculptor and print-maker Kim Lim (1936-1997).  Through in-depth, archival research, this book will offer a nuanced and critical take on the material, formal and phenomenological properties of Lim’s practice, which has all too often been described as ‘zen-like’, ‘meditative’, ‘silent’ and ‘contemplative’ – terms that consciously or not reiterate the stereotype of the ‘inscrutable orient’. The book project will examine the breadth of Lim’s artistic output across different media, shedding light on the work of an artist whose multifaceted, transcultural practice necessarily complicates and challenges established narratives of post-war art in Britain.

Wenny will be on research leave in Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022


MA Special Option: Global China: Contemporary Chinese Art and Geopolitics

BA3: Body, Space and Power in Contemporary Chinese Art and Visual Cultures

BA2: Mapping Contemporary Asian Art

BA 1: Contemporary Art in London; Foundations: The Global Contemporary


PhD Supervision


Sophie Xiaofei Guo, Bioscience and contemporary art in Sinophone cultures

Andrew Cummings, Strange Encounters in Contemporary Art from East and Southeast Asia, 1990–Present (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Award with Tate Modern, co-supervised by Dr Sook-Kyung Lee, Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational)

Lydia Ohl, Cai Guo-Qiang: Exploding the archive

Fred Wendi Shan, Gaming, Parody and Performativity: Play Culture in Contemporary Chinese art (CHASE Doctoral Training Programme Scholarship)

Tilly Scantlebury, A Queer Rethinking: Families and Futures in American Art from 1990 to now (Advisor. Supervisor – Prof. Jo Applin)

Nadya Wang, Accidental Career Girl to Working Mother of the Year: Her World Magazine and the Construction of Singaporean Women’s Identities, 1974-1990 (Advisor. Supervisor – Dr Rebecca Arnold)

Sunji Park, Art, War and Propaganda: Visual Rhetoric of the Empire of Japan during the Asia-Pacific War, 1931-1945 (Advisor. Supervisor – Prof. Julian Stallabrass)

Recently completed

Jessie Robertson, Hyper(in)visible. Art, Protest & Surveillance, 2011-16, 2019.

Nayun Jang, Cultural Memory of Democratisation and Globalisation in East Asian Art, 2019. (Advisor. Supervisor- Prof. Julian Stallabrass)

Sooyoung Leam, Seung-Taek: Reconfiguring avant-garde art in post-war Korea, 2019. (Advisor. Supervisor – Prof. Sarah Wilson)

Elizabeth Kutesko, Fashioning Brazil: Globalization and the Representation of Brazilian dress in National Geographic2016. (Advisor. Supervisor – Dr Rebecca Arnold)

Selected recent conference papers

‘The Artist as Interloper: Embedded ethnography and artistic agency in Fang Di’s documentary videos from the frontlines of the “Belt and Road”. Panel: ‘Against the Neo-Colonial’ in From Alexandria to Tokyo: Art, Colonialism and Entangled Histories conference, Hyundai Tate Research Centre and the Mori Art Museum. December 2020

‘Bitcoin mining and field recodings: Liu Chuang’s ecological infrastructures’. Panel: ‘Ecologies of Asian Art’ European Association for European Art and Archaeology Annual Conference (EAAA), Ljubljana, Slovenia. September 2020 [Conference postponed to 2021 due to Covid]

‘A Mirror to Analyse the World: Contemporary Chinese art and surveillance’. Panel: ‘Virtual Wonderlands: Digital Explorations and Place-Making in Contemporary Chinese Art’, Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference (AAS), Denver, Colorado. March 2019

‘The Changing Room: Surveillance, labour and sexual politics in ‘Dragonfly Eyes’, Under Construction: Depicting Urban Space in China symposium. University of Oxford.  November 2019

‘Ecofeminism as method? Political Ontology and Vegetal Ecology in the work of Chinese women artists’ Chinese women and contemporary art symposium, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. March 2019

‘A Box in the Theatre of the World: Photography and Privacy in China after 2008’ Art and China after 1989: New Perspectives symposium, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and NYU Department of Media, Culture and Communication. NYU, New York. September 2016

‘It’s not funny- Making sense of humour in contemporary Chinese art and online visual culture’. Playing Games: Power and Pleasure in Art after the Internet. UCL, March 2016.


Oxford Art Journal (Editorial board member, Post-1800 Book Reviews Editor)

Journal of Art Historiography (International advisory board member)

Chinese Contemporary Art series, Springer Verlag (Deputy editor-in-chief)

Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Editorial board member)

Art Review Asia (International advisory board member)

Museum 2050 美术馆2050  (International advisory committee)

Research interests

  • Modern and contemporary art and visual culture
  • Critical geopolitics
  • Decolonialism and neocolonialism
  • Race, racialisation and representation
  • Digital cultures and technology
  • Politics and poetics of infrastructure
  • Gender, sexuality and subjectivities
  • Labour and migration
  • Ecology and eco-criticism

Selected Publications

Edited Journal Issues

‘Voice as form’ Eds. Pamela Corey and Wenny Teo (Special Issue) Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 43, Issue 2, 2020.

‘Contemporary Chinese Artists in the Globalised Art World’ (Special issue) Ed. Wenny Teo, Journal ofContemporary Chinese Art. Vol.5, No. 1, May 2018.

‘Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art: Historiographic Reflections’ (Special issue) Ed. Wenny Teo, TheJournal of Art Historiography, No. 10, June 2014.

Selected refereed articles

“Words divide, Images connect’: The politics of language and the language of politics in Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky and Book from the Ground,’ Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. Special issue, ‘Contemporary Chinese Artists in the Globalised Art World’, Ed., Wenny Teo, Vol..5, No. 1, May 2018, pp. 77-91.

‘The elephant in the church: Ai Weiwei, the media circus and the global canon’ in Re-envisioning the Contemporary Art Canon: Perspectives in a Global World. Ed. Ruth Iskin (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 88-105.

‘Cannibalism, Capitalism and the Cross-cultural Politics of ‘Eating People,’’ Journal of Visual Art Practice, Vol. 11, Issue 2-3, September 2012, pp. 173-192.

Selected chapters and catalogue essays

‘Playing with shadows: Hsu Yung-hsu’s art in a global context,’ Hsu Yung-hsu: A World Made Light. Ed. Yulin Lee, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art, Taiwan (Kaohsiung: KMFA, 2020), pp. 204-237.

‘A Luminous Solitude – Contemporary Art from Myanmar,’ in Voices of Transition: Contemporary Art from Myanmar. Eds. Maximilian Lunn and David Sgarbossa (London: Gomer Press, 2018), pp. 14-18.

‘The Pedestrian Sublime: Cui Jie,’ Hackspace. Ed. Hans Ulrich Obrist (Hong Kong: K11 Art Foundation, 2016)

‘Wen-Hui: Living Dance, Active Histories,’ in Other Futures. China Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015.

‘The Un/Desirable Guest: Hos(ti)pitality in the Postcolonial Archive,’ in Erika Tan – Come Cannibalise Us Why Don’t You? (Singapore: National University of Singapore Museum Press, 2014).

‘Lost and Found Dogs: Desiring Production in Qiu Anxiong’s “We Are the World” Negotiating Difference: Contemporary Chinese Art in the Global Context. Eds. Birgit Hopfener & Fransiska Hoch (Weimar: VDG Weimar Verlag, 2012), pp. 273-283.

‘Signalling Through Flames: Cai Guo-Qiang’s Language Acts,’ Object: Graduate Research and Reviews in the History of Art and Visual Culture No. 12, 2010.

Past curatorial projects

A Beautiful Disorder: Contemporary Chinese Art at Cass Sculpture Foundation (2016)Lead curator, with Claire Shea and Ella Liao Wei

The historical relationship between English and Chinese landscape aesthetics is the starting point and inspiration for A Beautiful Disorder, an exhibition of sixteen newly commissioned monumental sculptures by Greater Chinese artists in the woodland grounds of the Cass Sculpture Foundation. The title of the exhibition, is a quote from an influential letter written by the Jesuit missionary and artist Jean-Denis Attiret in 1743 that had a tremendous effect on English garden culture. Attiret used the term to describe the ability of the Chinese garden to provoke violent and often opposing sensations in the viewer through a series of theatrical framing devices. The exhibition invites the viewer to reflect on China’s past, present and future relationship with the world at large, and provides valuable insight into the state of Chinese culture, politics and society today from the perspective of some of its most dynamic and engaging artists.

Participating Artists:

Bi Rongrong毕蓉蓉 Cao Fei 曹斐 and Cao Dan丹 Cheng Ran 程然 Cui Jie 崔洁 Rania Ho何颖宜 Li Jinghu李景湖 Lu Pingyuan 陆平原 MadeIn 没顶公司 Song Ta 宋拓  Tu Wei-Cheng 凃維政 Wang Sishun 王思顺 Wang Wei 王衛 Jennifer Wen Ma 马文  Wang Yuyang 王郁洋 Zhang Ruyi 张如怡 Zhao Yao 赵要 Zheng Bo 鄭波

We Have Never Participated – The Eighth Shenzhen Sculpture Biennial (2014)

Associate curator. Lead curator: Marko Daniel

At a time when participation is ‘less a novelty and more a banality’ (to appropriate Gene McHugh’s account of Post-Internet art), it becomes all the more important to re-examine its underlying set of assumptions and ideological values. The statement “We have never participated’ is a riff on Bruno Latour’s seminal book We Have Never Been Modern (1991). The title refers to different modes of non-participation, from the refusal to take part in an art project where it might merely serve as a trite gesture of conformism, to situations in which there has historically been no tradition of participation and where there is little scope for it as a radical practice in art let alone the public sphere. Under the sign of post-participation, the works selected for the Biennale elicit subtle levels of involvement, whether by inviting action, reflection, critique or contemplation, based on the free judgment of the viewer. Contemporary and historical works in a wide range of media form the content of the exhibition to frame the history of participatory practice and social research in relation to current artistic practice. The selected artworks use references to everyday occurrences, to modest and neglected aspects of our lives, to seemingly ordinary spaces, structures or architectures as a way of giving aesthetic form to diverse social realities.

Participating Artists:

1. 曹斐 (Cao Fei) 2. 陈界仁 (Chen Chieh-jen) 3. 陈劭雄 (Chen Shaoxiong) 4. 陈彧凡&陈彧君 (Chen Yufan & Chen Yujun) 5. 程然 (Cheng Ran) 6. 耿建翌 (Geng Jianyi) 7. 格兰·弗瑞 (约翰·林戴尔) (Gran Fury (John Lindell)) 8. 黄博志 (Huang Po-Chih) 9. 岩崎贵宏 (Takahiro Iwasaki) 10. 贾淳 (Jia Chun) 11. 特雷勒沃·卡雷勒侬&奥利维·科克塔-卡雷勒侬 (Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen) 12. 小泉明朗 (Meiro Koizumi) 13. L十:白双全、胡敏仪、李淳朗 (Pak Sheung Chuen, Wo Man Yee, Lee Soen Long) 14. 赖志盛 (Lai Chih-Sheng) 15. 马克·拉菲亚 (Marc Lafia) 16. 李鸿辉 (Michael Lee) 17. 李景湖 (Li Jinghu) 18. 李明 (Li Ming) 19. 艾哈迈德·奥古 (Ahmet Öğüt) 20. 希拉·佩佩 (Sheila Pepe) 21. 亚德里安·派柏 (Adrian Piper) 22. 政纯办 (Polit Sheer Form Office) 23. 庄普 (Tsong Pu) 24. 尤尼斯·拉蒙 (Younès Rahmoun) 25. 曼努埃尔·赛兹 (Manuel Saiz) 26. 宋拓 (Song Ta) 27. 吴玛俐 (Wu Mali) 28. 徐坦 (Xu Tan) 29. 黄荣法 (Morgan Wong) 30. 姚瑞中+失落社会档案室 (Yao Jui-chung with Lost Society Document (LSD)) 31. 邱志杰、宋振与店口居民、总体艺术工作室 (Qiu Zhijie & Song Zhen with Diankou residents and Total Art Studio) 32. 海克特·扎莫拉 (Héctor Zamora)