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Appointment of three scholars marks first major realisation of £20 million Alphawood Foundation donation to enhance Southeast Asian arts expertise at SOAS

Borobudur, Java, Indonesia ©Pia Conti

Borobudur, Java, Indonesia ©Pia Conti

19 May 2014

SOAS, University of London has announced the appointment of three new scholars to the endowed academic posts funded by the Alphawood Foundation to advance the study and preservation of Buddhist and Hindu art in Southeast Asia. All three appointees join SOAS in September 2014 and will be in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology in the School of Arts.

Dr Ashley Thompson, currently senior Lecturer in the School of Fine Art at Leeds University, will join SOAS as a Professor in the role of Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art; Dr Christian Luczanits, currently Senior Curator at the Rubin Museum of Art, will join as David L. Snellgrove Senior Lecturer in Tibetan and Buddhist Art, and Dr Louise Tythacott, currently Lecturer in Museology at University of Manchester, will join as Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art.

SOAS announced the £20m gift from Alphawood Foundation in November 2013 - the largest ever gift in the history of the Chicago-based philanthropic foundation and one of the largest recorded gifts to UK higher education, especially in the field of arts and humanities. £15m of the gift is to support an ambitious academic programme to effect a transformation in the understanding of Southeast Asian art. The appointment of three new scholars at SOAS marks the first realisation of this major gift and will enhance the School’s acknowledged Asian arts expertise.

Dr Thompson is a specialist in Southeast Asian Cultural Histories, with particular expertise on Cambodia. Her internationally renowned work on classical and pre-modern arts and literatures has in recent years been complemented by creative and ground-breaking work on contemporary Khmer arts. She comes to SOAS with extensive experience in teaching and institutional development in Southeast Asia, the US and Europe. As the Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art at SOAS, Professor Thompson will play a major role in transforming the study of Southeast Asian art at the School and internationally.

Dr Luczanits’ research involves work on early Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art from 7th to 15th Century. Described as “a thought-leader and an invaluable member of the curatorial team,” by Patrick Sears, the Executive Director of the Rubin Museum of Art, in his role as David L. Snellgrove Senior Lecturer in Tibetan and Buddhist Art at SOAS, Dr Luczanits’ international reputation will provide a global platform for the study of Tibetan and Buddhist art.

Dr Tythacott’s work focuses on the collecting, representation and display of non-Western objects in museums. In her latest book, The Lives of Chinese Objects, she explores the museological careers of five Buddhist sculptures and illustrates the complex and uneasy ways in which Chinese objects have been classified in the West. In her role as Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art, Dr Tythacott will develop and teach courses at all levels, including supervising PhD students.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Professor Gurharpal Singh said: “We are delighted to welcome Dr Thompson, Dr Luczanits and Dr Tythacott to SOAS. These new posts will strengthen the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology and our acclaimed Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art – enhancing SOAS’ position as a world leader promoting the knowledge and understanding of non-Western art.  Along with their own teaching and research, our new colleagues will help us continue to build strong and long-lasting links with museums, heritage organisations, universities and governments in the Southeast Asia region and so contribute to the step-change in the profile and understanding of Buddhist and Hindu art that we and Alphawood are seeking to make.”