Edited by Fionna Barber and Eleanor Byrne

We are delighted to announce the publication of issue 8 of the Open Arts Journal (summer 2020).

Extract from the issue’s abstract:

This special issue offers a timely and current critical evaluation of the morbid symptoms and potential wounds of ‘Brexit Culture’ as its implications, causes and effects unravel in front of a global audience via multiple media in real time. Brexit cultures, for the purposes of our articles here, attends to the role of cultural production in forging political choices , and to  the cultural dimensions of Brexit – as a response to living in times of crisis and uncertainty. Departing from solely political or economic evaluations of Brexit’s effects, contributions to the special issue explore how the humanities and social sciences, artists and writers engage with the challenges, threats and potential disasters of Brexit. This issue interrogates how multiple constituencies that make up the inhabitants of the UK deal with a climate of continued uncertainty about definitions and effects of Brexit as they unfold in everyday cultural practices and specific locations, and what kind of responses or symptoms we can identify in current discourses of national and international culture. 

Issue 8 is available from our website now:


Issue 6 out now

We are delighted to announce the publication of our Winter 2017/8 issue:


Baroque Naples: place and displacement


Edited by Helen Hills, Professor of History of Art, University of York.


Download Open Arts Journal, Issue 6, Winter 2017/8 from our website:



Extract from Helen Hills’ introduction to issue 6:


This special issue investigates artworks, literature, and histories of baroque Naples through a critical interrogation of their relationship to place. It aims to consider ‘baroque Naples’ as a critical question, not in terms of periodisation, stylistic moment, or place set in time, as if these things are already known and settled, but in terms of convulsion, shifts, differences, and disparities.

What are the dislocating effects of baroque interventions? How have place in Naples and the place of Naples been imagined, invented, chartered, explored, and contested in baroque art, history, and literature? By what means – scholarly, cultural, social, political, and economic – has Naples been kept in its place and with what consequence for the interpretation of its culture? In what ways might ‘Naples’ be usefully thought, less in terms of reassertion of identity or of city as given and place in terms of continuity, than in relation to displacement, difference, and disjunction? What hitherto obscured aspects of Neapolitan baroque culture might thereby be allowed to emerge?

Baroque Naples and its forging, discursively, materially, technologically, and aesthetically are here examined in innovative essays by eight scholars. They investigate baroque Naples in relation to architecture, marble, painting, prints, written texts, maps, geology, power, and privilege in order to bring the relation between material transformation and place into focus.


Issue 6 contents



Helen Hills

Sergius Kodera

Helen Hills

Joris van Gastel

Sean Cocco and Alfonso Tortora

Edward Payne

Bogdan Cornea

Christopher R. Marshall


Issue 5 Sustainable Art Communities: now also in print

SAC book cover

We are pleased to announce that Issue 5 of the Open Arts Journal has recently been developed for publication as a book.

The Caribbean, with its transnational diaspora stretching to all the shores of the Atlantic and beyond, is one of the liveliest cultural landscapes in the world today. It is also one of the most troubled. A major new anthology of material edited by Leon Wainwright (OU) and Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden), published this year by Manchester University Press, presents the contemporary perspectives on the challenges facing Caribbean communities and shows how the arts can play a crucial role in improving sustainability through a shared ground of experience, enjoyment and understanding.

The book promotes the view that visual art in particular has an important contribution to make in enhancing the Caribbean’s networks and reflecting on the nature of its connections. It addresses a topic that spans the scholarly, artistic, curatorial and professional fields of art and heritage, exploring constructive comparisons between key linguistic regions – namely the Anglophone and the Dutch – and identifying new parallels and contrasts in global-local relations, capital, patronage, morality, sustainability and the benefits of knowledge exchange. Ultimately, it makes the case for social justice in the arts within a complex and little-studied global geography.

Sustainable Art Communities is a landmark collaboration between artists, policymakers, arts organisers, art historians and critics, drawing from such diverse settings as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, Suriname, Curaçao, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.

This exciting anthology is the outcome of a recent international project that explored how the understanding and formation of sustainable communities for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas may be supported by art practice, curating and museums — in a partnership between the OU and Leiden University, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). You can read more about this project here.


Issue 3 Disturbing Pasts: now also in print

disturbing past book cover

We are pleased to announce that Issue 3 of the Open Arts Journal has been developed for publication as a book.


Throughout the world, legacies of war, colonialism, genocide and oppression return again and again to dominate contemporary culture. In this major new anthology of material edited by Leon Wainwright, published this year by Manchester University Press, artists, curators and academics come together to explore how such legacies can inspire creative approaches to remembering and challenging the past.

Contributors begin with the idea that any meaningful encounter with the past has to be felt at a personal level, no matter how difficult an event may be to recall and represent. Recollecting stories of this kind is complex and sensitive, and the book demonstrates how the process can benefit from the joint efforts of people from different fields, including professional art practices, art history and visual culture studies, social anthropology, literary studies, history, museology and cultural policy studies.

The result is a detailed global picture that presents a variety of new approaches to confronting dominant historical narratives and shaping alternative interpretations. It gathers voices, histories and images from diverse contexts including South Africa, Germany, Namibia, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Australia.


Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity is the outcome of a Knowledge Transfer and Network Project, funded by the European Science Foundation through a partnership between the OU and the Weltmuseum Wien (Vienna). Read more about the project here.

Issue 5: Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean

We are delighted to announce the publication of Issue 5 of the Open Arts Journal,

This themed issue, ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’, brings together academics, artists, curators and policymakers from various countries in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas, the UK and the Netherlands. It explores how the understanding and formation of sustainable community for the Caribbean and its global diaspora may be supported by art practice, curating and museums. The collection was developed through a two-year international research project (2012-14) led by Leon Wainwright, with Co-Investigator Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden University), focused on major public events in Amsterdam and London. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO/Humanities).

The issue is available from our website now.

Cancellation notice due to industrial action — Open Arts Journal research seminar 25 November, 2015

Re. 25th November, Open Arts Journal research seminar with guest speaker Professor Helen Hills (University of York). PLEASE NOTE THAT DUE TO INDUSTRIAL ACTION AT THE OPEN UNIVERSITY, THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED.


The Open University is the publisher of the Open Arts Journal and provides its administrative base. An industrial dispute at the University where our research seminar is normally hosted has resulted in the cancellation of this event on 25th November.


The Open University will be taking strike action over the next three weeks in response to the decision to close seven of their nine regional centres (Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge, London, Oxford, Gateshead and Birmingham) and the threat to over 500 jobs. There will be an all-out strike on the 25th November followed by two weeks of strike action at different centres around the country. The staff will also be undertaking continuous action short of a strike by working to contract.


Further background on the UCU campaign can be found here:


On behalf of the editorial board of the Open Arts Journal, I would like to thank Professor Hills for her kind understanding.


Leon Wainwright, Editor-in-Chief


*             *             *             *

Abstract:  Silver & Salvation: Colonial Excess and Baroque Naples.

Helen Hills, Professor of History of Art, University of York


This paper examines the materiality of silver in relation to  trauma, transaction and transformation. It focuses on Naples, under Spanish rule, to explore the effects of colonialism within Europe through art and sculpture. Thus I consider the presentation of ‘the nature of the Neapolitans’ and their practices as ‘excessive’ through the material of silver. Silver was imported into Naples from Spanish territories in the so-called New World. In Naples silver is naturalized through artifice – both rendered to represent ‘nature’ and made into an apparently intrinsic part of ‘Neapolitan culture’. Indeed, the profligate display of silver in Neapolitan churches is remarked upon by foreign visitors as a mark of the very ‘nature’ of Neapolitans’ themselves.



Baroque Naples was tarnished in Protestant Europe with a reputation for excess – particularly an excess of silver in its churches and chapels, part of the mortmain of the Spanish church, a prodigious resource that was gathering dust rather than fighting wars or generating interest. Silver was the material par excellence for chalices, pyx and plate, for carte di gloria and sacred and liturgical objects of many kinds, including the spectacular solid silver reliquaries in the Treasury Chapel of San Gennaro in Naples, unsurpassed amongst European treasuries. Silver was particularly implicated in discourses of the sacred, yet silver was implicated, too, in the violence of Spanish colonialism.  Silver seemed to offer the imperial Spanish what they most desired – a means to substantialize every relation, even with the divine. And it was in Naples above all, emblem and testing ground of Spanish rule in Europe, that silver was beaten into splendid submission. Scholarship has made much of colonialism and its relationship with culture outside of Europe. But what of colonialism within Europe? Silver offers an opening.



Forthcoming Issue 4: Touch me, touch me not: senses, faith and performativity in early modernity

We are delighted to announce the publication later this month of Issue 4 of the Open Arts Journal. Download the flyer here.

Touch me, touch me not:

senses, faith and performativity in early modernity


Issue 4, Winter 2014–5

Edited by Erin E. Benay and Lisa M. Rafanelli


This fourth issue of the Open Arts Journal brings together an exciting collection of essays that investigate the collaborative roles of the senses in the genesis and experience of renaissance and baroque art.  Examining, in particular, the ways in which the senses were evoked in the realm of the sacred, where questions of the validity of sensory experience were particularly contentious and fluid, the contributors seek to problematise the neoplatonic imperialism of sight and sense hierarchies that traditionally considered touch, along with smell and taste, as base and bodily.  The essays show that instead it was a multiplicity of sensory modalities – touch, sight, hearing and sometimes even taste and smell – that provided access to the divine, and shaped the imaginative, physical and performative experience of works of art. The issue’s project thus brings us closer to achieving the art historian Geraldine Johnson’s eloquent proposal: that by revisioning Michael Baxandall’s famous ‘period eye’, we might, in fact, arrive at a more aptly described, historically specific, period body.

Issue 2: “Pavilions” – Forthcoming Winter 2013

Download the flyer for Issue 2 “Pavilions” (PDF, 325KB)

PAVILIONS | Issue 2, Winter 2013

This second issue of the Open Arts Journal pulls together a number of exploratory texts – some academic, some more creative in style – on the understudied subject of pavilions.

Responding to the question ‘What is a pavilion?’, this issue proposes that the pavilion (as an ornamental garden structure, an exposition venue, or something more conceptual like a curated project or book) should no longer be neglected as a minor or inconsequential form of architecture. Although its origins may be in the modest tents of travellers, the pavilion as a structure has nonetheless been mobilized in strategies of world-making and unmaking, and this issue explores these creative manoeuvres.

The first section, ‘Historical themes and contexts,’ is a collection of mostly essay-length texts by Ihor Junyk, Jane Lomholt, Joel Robinson, Jaimee K. Comstock-Skipp and Karolina Szynalska, taking forward the genealogy of pavilions offered in the editor’s Introduction, ‘Big worlds under little tents’. A series of case studies introduces pavilions in their many forms during the modern period – picturesque garden ornaments, exotic structures that speak of remote times and places, and national exposition buildings at the world’s fairs and other exhibitions. Here, the pavilion is discussed as a monumental object as well as a receptacle for other objects, and a type of architecture that is rarely far away from imperialist or nationalist agendas. Long after it has served its original purpose, it may incite reflection on the decay and ‘afterlife’ of such structures.

In ‘The architecture of display,’ the pavilion is considered as a structure – architectural or otherwise – for framing the world, or putting a piece of the world on display. Texts by Brian Hatton, Flavia Marcello, Jennifer Way, Beccy Kennedy, Wendy Asquith, Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Michael Corris address the way in which pavilions mediate observation and knowledge of the world. This section probes the intriguing dynamic that pavilions set up between the container and the contained, and how they might even be said to deconstruct that dynamic while becoming works of art in their own right (e.g., sculptural objects like Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona pavilion).

The final section, ‘Contemporary projects,’ carries short statements, reviews and photo-essays by Sophie Kazan, Yam Lau, Sarah Bonnemaison, Harriet Harriss, and a longer text by Chris Tucker. They consider a range of sites from privately-funded exposition buildings and the high-budget ‘star’ architecture of the Serpentine Gallery commissions, to more modest works that intervene in public space. These projects raise questions about community outreach, participatory citizenship and direct democracy, and show up the ineffectiveness or emptiness of some of today’s official public art commissions. The issue concludes with a perceptive afterword by Michaela Giebelhausen: a Surrealist-inspired piece that takes a ramble through Paris – the city of universal expositions – and pauses on what remains of its exhibition grounds and public parks.