Gabriella Nugent

I am an art historian and curator based in London, currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2022–2025) in the Department of Art History and World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia. I write on modern and contemporary artists who inhabit multiple worlds as a result of colonial and postcolonial entanglements. This research has most often focused on the nexus between Africa and Europe and occassionally Latin America. My books include Colonial Legacies: Contemporary Lens-Based Art and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Leuven University Press, 2021) and Inji Efflatoun and the Mexican Muralists: Imaging Women and Work between Egypt and Mexico (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2022)

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, my current book project, titled Unmade: The Politics of Difference in Contemporary Art, asks: in our current moment of decolonisation, when museums, galleries and universities are actively seeking to foreground African artists, to what extent do these approaches reinscribe an established sense of difference? I trace this idea of difference to the globalisation of the artworld in the 1990s and its expansion beyond a Eurocentric matrix. African artists at this time were often expected to perform a sense of “Africanness” in their work premised on Western notions of the continent and its people. I discuss a generation of artists from South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria working in sculpture and sculptural installation who started to exhibit internationally from this decade onwards fully aware of these expectations. I examine the ways in which the selected artists deploy materials and their associations to dismantle expectations of difference and the identities imposed upon them both locally and globally. I demonstrate that there is much to be learned from artists who have had to grapple with impositions of difference long before the discipline’s attempt to decolonise. 

After completing my PhD in History of Art at University College London in 2020, I was awarded Sharjah Art Foundation’s FOCAL POINT Publishing Grant 2020 and a Research Continuity Fellowship (2021) from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. My publications are featured in Art HistoryArt Journal, African Arts, Burlington ContemporaryOxford Art Journal, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and MoMA’s post: notes on art in a global context. My research has additionally been supported by awards from University College London, the Society for French Studies and the Association for Art History.