27 August 2021
Richard Hylton, Lecturer in Contemporary Art
Can you say a little about your background in terms of education, research, and professional activity?
First, I’m thrilled and honoured to be working at SOAS as a Lecturer in Contemporary Art. I greatly look forward to meeting my teaching colleagues and students within the School of Arts and wider academic community. My appointment comes at an exciting time as I develop new teaching and research in Black Diasporic art, spanning African American art, British art history and explorations into the relationships between contemporary art, ethnography and the western museum. Joining SOAS offers an ideal context for developing these projects and contributing positively to student learning and the school’s international reputation for advancing critical inquiry.
My journey into academia has been circuitous to say the least. I studied Fine Art at Exeter College of Art & Design (now University of Plymouth). Following this I was awarded an Arts Council of Great Britain (now Arts Council England) traineeship in exhibition organising. This prestigious eighteen-month appointment took me to Newcastle where I worked at Laing Art Gallery. From Newcastle, I moved to Oldham Art Gallery, then became a Fellow in Visual Art at University of Bradford. From 1999 to 2003 I was curator at the independent agency Autograph (ABP) where I organised several exhibitions and edited a number of monographs including by Mohini Chandra, Donald Rodney and Janette Parris. My first book-length study, The Nature of the Beast: Cultural Diversity and the Visual Arts Sector, A Study of Policies, Initiatives and Attitudes 1976-2006, offered insight into the mechanisms and machinations behind ‘ethnic arts’, ‘black arts’, ‘new internationalism’ and ‘culturally diverse arts’. In many ways, it was this book which led to studying for a PhD (part time) which I was awarded in 2018 from Goldsmiths College, University of London for the thesis ‘A Labour of Love: The Politics of Presenting Contemporary Art as Part of Commemorations to Mark the United Kingdom’s Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007’.
I am currently writing a monograph on Donald Rodney (1961-1998) one of the most important but equally underrepresented British artist of his generation. The history of African American art in the international arena also figures prominently in my scholarship and has resulted in published essays in the Routledge Companion to African American Art History; the International Review of African American, Art Review and Art Monthly. Although I never completely abandoned my artistic practice, it has remerged following the completion of my PhD. I’m currently working on an audio-visual project Public Library UK.
What are your aspirations for the coming years at SOAS?
Having spent many years working primarily as a curator across public, independent, and commercial sectors, I have accrued a range of knowledge and experience in art commissioning, publishing, running gallery programmes and talk events. Central to this work has been writing and thinking critically about relationships between academia, museums and audience. I hope this experience can bring a new dimension to learning and research in the School of Arts. I also feel strongly that working with scholars and students from within and beyond the School of Arts, who have such a breadth of knowledge, interests and experience, will advance my teaching and scholarship, by challenging and engaging me in new approaches to pedagogy, research and collaboration from an array of international perspectives.