The Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Contemporary Art is a high-profile initiative at the University of Oxford dedicated to promoting the study of contemporary art through its foremost practicing artists. Ambitious in its scope, the Visiting Professorships brings diverse artists of critical acclaim to the University Oxford, where the initiative is recognised as one of the University’s most important channels for engagement with contemporary art.

The initiative enjoys a special relationship with the Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Museums, Galleries and Libraries, often overlapping to provide a dynamic forum for exchange about arts and culture in modern society.

The Visiting Professorship in Contemporary Art has been made possible by the generous support of Ivorypress and is hosted by Magdalene College, Oxford.

Maya Lin 2014-2015

Maya Lin is an American designer and artist who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art.

Maya Lin came to fame as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and has gone on to pursue a remarkable career in art and architecture, while continuing her interest in memorial.

Lin, who now owns and operates Maya Lin Studio in New York City, went on to design other structures, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Alabama (1989) and the Wave Field at the University of Michigan (1995). In 2009, Lin was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.

Lin is now at work on what she calls “her final memorial,” the What Is Missing? Foundation, to commemorate the biodiversity that has been lost in the planet’s sixth mass extinction. What Is Missing? aims to raise awareness about the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats by utilizing sound, media, science, and art for temporary installations and a web-based project. What Is Missing? exists not in one specific site, but in many forms and in many places simultaneously.

Vik Muniz 2013-2014

Vik Muniz is a Brazilian artist and photographer. Muniz is best known for recreating famous imagery from art history and pop culture with unexpected, everyday objects, and photographing them.

How do we look at art? What kind of education do we need to make or appreciate art? How do people learn visual literacy with and without formal arts education? These are the questions that Vik Muniz uses to shape his Humanitas lecture, Class Dismissed . . . Art, Creativity and Education.

Muniz gives an overview of his own career within the context of the arts movements that shaped him and his generation, exploring how people perceive art with different lived experiences. He speaks about the experience of viewing art as a poetic relationship between mind and substance. The power of this process, and indeed the power of art, is that is has the potential to humanise people, challenging our visions of the world.

In a panel discussion with Michael Govan (Director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) discusses the difference Between the Artist and the Museum. Artists and those who run museums often inhabit very different worlds, yet it is predominantly museums and galleries that showcases artists to the public. The symposium discusses the complexities of this relationship, exploring the unique moment of co-dependence between artists, museums and audiences that both Govan and Muniz try to capture in their different aspects of work.

William Kentridge 2012-2013

William Kentridge is a South African artist best known for his prints, drawings, and animated films.

William Kentridge’s Humanitas series looks at the messiness involved in the act of creation. His own works are constructed by filming a drawing, making erasures and changes, and filming it again. A single drawing will be altered and filmed multiple times until the end of a scene. These palimpsest-like drawings are later displayed along with the films as finished pieces of art.

His lecture contrasts the muddle and disorder of creation with the clean, linear nature of the final result – in this case, the lecture itself.

He draws a comparison with this and Freud’s notion of dreams, likening the mess of ideas when one looks back at one’s notes and sketches to the incomprehensibility of one’s dreams upon waking. In this context, he explains how the Walking Tour of the Studio (the title of his lecture series) becomes for the artist an attempt to gain better insight into one’s work.

To epitomize this creative journey and the tension between the artist as creator and viewer, he shows the audience a video he had made in which two William Kentridges appear simultaneously: one attempting to sketch a rhino, and the other critiquing, advising and complaining about his work.

Shirin Neshat 2011-2012

Shirin Neshat is is an Iranian visual artist who is known primarily for her work in film, video and photography.

Shirin Neshat opened her Humanitas series with a public lecture on Images and History in which she talked openly and honestly about the ways in which her own personal history in and out of Iran had affected the development of her work.

After showing her two-screen video installation Turbulent, she went on to discuss other film pieces including Rapture, Soliloquy and Women Without Men, and the photographic series Women of Allah and the Book of Kings.

In the final symposium Neshat discusses Portraiture: Past and Futures with a panel that includes: MalcolmRogers, Director of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston; William Ewing, writer and curator of photography; and the writer, A.S. Byatt.



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