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Giulia Smith

Dr Giulia Smith is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Ruskin School of Art and Worcester College, University of Oxford (2019–2023). Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art (2018–2019) and the Getty Research Institute (2016–2017), having received her PhD from the History of Art Department at UCL in 2016.

Dr Giulia Smith specialises in modern and contemporary art, with an emphasis on the legacies of empire in Britain and across the Atlantic world. Her research focuses in part on the eco-aesthetic traditions of the transnational Caribbean in relation to Eurocentric, and especially British, conceptions of nature, landscape and ecology. Titled Living Landscapes: Nature as Anti-Colonial Agent in Guyanese Art, her current book project considers artworks that mobilise geophysical entities and climatic phenomena in support of counter-hegemonic critiques of colonial and neo-colonial regimes of oppression and environmental exploitation.

Preliminary publications relating to this research include ‘Lessons from the Eco-Caribbean’ for ‘The Arts, Environmental Justice, and the Ecological Crisis: Conversation Piece’, British Art Studies, vol. 18 (November 2020); and ‘Nature Erupts into Orchestras of Nemesis: The Ecological Imaginary of the Transnational Caribbean’ for the catalogue of Life Between Islands: Caribbean British Art 1950s­–Now (Tate Britain, 2021-22). In 2023, Dr Smith published a substantial essay on Antonius Roberts for the catalogue of ‘Antonius Roberts: Art, Ecology and Sacred Space’, a retrospective Thompson at The National Gallery of the Bahamas (‘Sylvan Ancestors and Militant Trees: Arboreal Resistance in the Work of Antonius Roberts’, 2023). Her research on Aubrey Williams is forthcoming as part of a new monograph on the artist.

In 2021, Dr Giulia Smith and Dr Kate Keohane organised a online research stream on ‘Biotic Resistance: Eco-Caribbean Visions in Art and Exhibition Practice’ with support from a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant and a Paul Mellon Centre Event Support Grant. The proceedings of this international series are now being turned into an edited volume titled Caribbean Eco-Aesthetics.

Dr Giulia Smith is also working on a research project that examines the work of living artists whose practice pivots on the politics of sickness, healing and survival. Bringing together current theoretical discourses on collective debility, environmental disaster and resilience, her work in this field considers the possibilities and the problems opened up by the adoption of these terms within the contemporary art world. Extracts of this research have been released in Art History (‘Chronic Illness as Critique: Crip Aesthetics Across the Atlantic’, Art History 44:2, March 2021) and inside Magic, ), the latest title in the MIT Press/Whitechapel Gallery series Documents on Contemporary Art.

In the past, Dr Giulia Smith has published articles on a range of subjects, from the representation of interracial love in the aftermath of Windrush (‘Decolonising Love: Frank Bowling in the Early 1960s’Third Text, January 2022), to the gender politics of the postwar art world (‘Paula Rego: Gutsy Painting’, Tate Publishing, 2021; ‘Painting that Grows Back: Magda Cordell, 1956­–1961'British Art Studies 1, 2015). Her art criticism has appeared in Art MonthlyFrieze and Wellcome Collection Stories, among other platforms. Dr Giulia Smith has also collaborated on exhibitions and research programmes with museums and galleries, including South London Gallery, ICA, Showroom and Arcadia Missa. Previously, she was a curatorial intern at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC and The Drawing Center. 

Her approach to pedagogy has been shaped by more than eight years of experience teaching in UK universities, as well as by one critical experience in the museum education sector. Between 2017–18, Dr Giulia Smith was the historian in residence at South London Gallery/Wellcome Library as part of a long-term program focused on supporting a diverse group of young people aged 14-21 in their self-directed exploration of the archive of the Peckham Experiment (London, 1926–1950), a modernist architectural complex and community health centre devoted to promoting radical wellbeing at grassroots level. Her teaching remains informed by the non-hierarchical and multidisciplinary ethos of this project. 

At the Ruskin School of Art, Dr Giulia Smith offers a variety of undergraduate courses as well as supervising graduate and postgraduate dissertations. Currently, she co-teaches with Dr Onyeka Igwe the undergraduate module ‘Critical Fabulation’. 

Email giulia.smith@rsa.ox.ac.uk