Dr Isobel Whitelegg


Isobel Whitelegg completed her MA (History & Theory of Latin American Art) and her PhD at the Department of Art History, University of Essex. She subsequently co-devised and contributed to two AHRC research projects: Latin American Art in the UK and Meeting Margins, Transnational Art in Europe & Latin America. Before joining Museum Studies in 2015, she served as Tate LJMU Research Curator and Head of Research & Public Programmes, Nottingham Contemporary.
Isobel is the School of Museum Studies Director of Postgraduate Research. She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Tate Papers and a Trustee of The Biennial Foundation and Primary Studios.
She is an expert in the history and theory of modern and contemporary art from Latin America (especially Brazil) and the history and historiography of contemporary art and its institutions.


Isobel’s research is international in scope but centres on Latin America, she focuses on the dynamically formed legacies of non-collecting arts institutions – a category largely excluded from Museum Studies. She is interested in the contingency between contemporary art and the shifting organisational forms that support define and validate it.
A sustained (2016-19) focus of her recent research has been collaborative work centring on the archives of Sao Paulo’s prominent international art biennial (1951-). With the support of the Arquivo Histórico Fundação Bienal de São Paulo and FAPESP, she has worked with a group of Brazilian scholars to research a key episode of its history – its organisational development and artistic activities during Brazils tmilitary regime (1964-1985).

Recent Publications

How to Talk About Biennials That Do Not Exisit. Tate Papers, 2021 (accepted; in press)
'São Paulo & Other Models: the Biennale in Latin America, 1951-1991' in Modern and Contemporary Latin American & Latino Art, eds R. Greele, M. Sullivan (Eds.), London: Blackwell, 2021
‘Everything Was Connected. Kinetic Art and Internationalism at Signals London, 1964-66’ in London Art Worlds, ed. Jo Applin, Catherine Spencer, Amy Tobin, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 2018
‘The São Paulo Bienal Complex: MAM-BSP-MAC’ in Museums of Latin America: Structuring Representation, ed. Michelle Greet, Gina McDaniel Tarver, New York: Routledge, 2018

Exhibitions Curated

  • Cinthia Marcelle, MACBA, Barcelona, July 2022 - January 2023
  • Signals, If you like I shall grow, Thomas Dane, London; kurimanzutto, New York, 2018
  • György Kepes, The New Landscape, Exhibition Research Centre, Liverpool, 2015
  • Equipo3 1973/2014, Museu da Cidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2014
  • Geraldo de Barros, What Remains, The Photographers Gallery, London, 2013

Research supervision

Interests: history and theory of art from Brazil and Latin America; art historiography; institutions of contemporary art, non-collecting institutions (centres, biennials, festivals).
Supervision Capacity: Accepting new students from Jan 2022

Current Supervisees:

  • Blanca Jové Alcalde. Creating a Politically active, Plural and Critical Public Sphere: discursive programmes at contemporary art institutions. AHRC M4C Scholarship. 2021 (submitted)
  • Cher Zou, Locating the Alternative Art Institution in the Chinese Context. University of Leicester International Excellence Scholarship. 2021.
  • Yang Chen, Jikken Kōbō and the Deterritorialisaton of the Institutional Exhibition. 2021.
  • Eloisa Rodrigues, Mapping Brazilian Art in Public Collections Across the UK. AHRC M4C Scholarship. 2022.
  • Laura Dudley, From Re-Construction to Co-Production, the authorship of participatory art exhibitions past and present. AHRC M4C Scholarship. 2022.
  • Eleni Ganati, Defining the Museum of Contemporary Art, 2023
  • Catalina Imizcoz, Modernity and the Exhibitionary Form. AHRC M4C Scholarship. 2024.

External PhD Examination:

Dr Nicola Simpson (Norwich School of Art & Design, 2019); Dr Yazia Hernadez Velazquez (Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, University of Kingston, 2017);  Dr Isabella Maidment (UCL/Tate Research 2016); Dr Jaime Vindel (Universidade de Leon, 2010)


Experience: BA Art History (Module Convenor, History of Latin American Art & Architecture), University of Essex; MA Curating (Programme Director), University of the Arts London, BA Art History (Module Convenor, Exhibition History), LJMU
Current: Module Convenor, Making Art History, MA Art Museum & Gallery Studies

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