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Art, Covid-19, and Black Lives Matter: The Global View from London

With its outstanding permanent collections of historic and modern art from around the globe, thousands of exhibitions opening annually, its contemporary art scene, commercial galleries and auction houses, London is one of the liveliest and most important cities in the world for the presentation of old and new visual art.  

2020 has been an exceptional year. In March 2020 the UK was placed in lockdown to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the population was asked to stay at home, and museums and galleries had to close their doors. On May 25, 2020 the killing of George Floyd brought renewed attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. In the UK, protestors in Bristol toppled a nineteenth-century statue of seventeenth-century slave trader, Edward Colston, prompting calls for a wider review of the figures represented in public statues across the UK. Across the globe, fundamental questions about how we live, our social and economic structures, and how our past and present are visualized and commemorated, have been thrown into sharp focus. 

In this course students will explore how UK-based artists and art institutions have been navigating this extraordinary time. Art can open our eyes to the experiences of others, enabling us to see what they have seen or what they have conjured in their imagination; such fundamental human communication is vital at times of crisis. We will consider the economic impact of the Covid-19 on the UK arts scene and the UK government measures introduced to mitigate those effects. We will investigate how artists and institutions have found new ways of engaging audiences during lockdown, amid an upsurge in demand for online content. We will also examine how museums are rethinking the interpretation of their collections to present more inclusive and diverse stories. Throughout the course, students will engage in close visual analysis of contemporary and historic art and develop advanced skills in visual analysis and critical thinking. 

Course Schedule

Program Date: October 11 - November 19, 2021

Students will meet online on Saturdays, specific times TBD. Class time will be a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Academic Director

Lois Oliver

Lois Oliver

Lois Oliver, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in England. This course draws on her extensive experience in the art world as a Curator and Exhibition Organiser. Dr. Oliver worked at the Harvard University Art Museums before joining the curatorial team at the V&A and then the National Gallery in London. A core faculty member at the London Global Gateway, she is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She writes multimedia interpretation for leading UK art institutions including the National Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Collection, and Tate. Dr Oliver studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, completing an M.A. in Venetian Renaissance Art and writing her doctoral thesis on "The Image of the Artist, Paris 1815-1855."