Dr. Michael Asbury

TrAIN Member

TrAIN Management Board Member – Deputy Director

I was born in Teresópolis, in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro, the son of British missionaries. After twenty years in Brazil I came to England to study engineering but fortunately to myself (and others) changed course and went on to complete an MA in The Study of Contemporary Art at Liverpool University and a PhD in the History and Theory of Art at The London Institute (now UAL). The former focused on British art and architecture in the post-war era, while the latter took me back to Brazil through the work of Hélio Oiticica and his relation to the development of modernism in Brazil and elsewhere.

I have since been attached to the very research centre where I undertook my PhD studies, working initially as a research fellow and expanding my range of interests. I am now a Reader in the Theory and History of Art and course leader for the MA Visual Arts: Transnational Art, at Camberwell College of Arts.

My research on Brazilian constructivism led me to be invited to join the curatorial team for ‘Century City: Art and the Modern Metropolis’, Tate Modern’s inaugural temporary exhibition in 2001, during which I also convened a conference entitled ‘Ideals of Modernity’ which focused on the ‘Rio de Janeiro 1950 – 1964’ section of that exhibition. My work with Oiticica also led to my contribution in 2007 to the Tate publication ‘Oiticica in London’, with an essay entitled ‘This Other Eden: Hélio Oiticica and Subterranean London 1969’. Other commissioned essays have been published by Art History, ArtNexus, inIVA/MIT, Liverpool University Press, Editora Perspectiva, Rodopi, amongst others, with contributions to exhibition catalogues for institutions such as Tate Modern, The Henry Moore Institute, Parasol Unit, Pharos, and Documenta 12.
Since 2005, I have worked as an exhibition programme consultant for the Pharos Centre for Contemporary Art in Nicosia, Cyprus, where I have curated exhibitions and co-edited books on the artists Antonio Manuel, Detanico & Lain, Anna Maria Maiolino, José Patricio, Cao Guimarães and most recently the 10th anniversary of the foundation exhibition Pharos = 10, which gathered the work of artists from around the world, including (other than the Brazilians already mentioned): AES+F, Sarkis Hamalbashian, Joanna Jones, Cildo Meireles, Richard Serra, Richard Wentworth, Bill Viola amongst many others.

Recently I co-edited a special issue of the journal Arte & Ensaios (Art & Essays) entitled Transnational Correspondence: a collaborative project between TrAIN and the School of Fine Arts at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The publication was launched at a two-day conference at Tate Modern. My activity over the last year has included: presenting papers at the International Congress of Art Historians (CIHA) in Melbourne, at the 1st European Brasilianist Congress at the University of Salamanca, convening a one day conference at the 28th São Paulo Biennial, co-organising a series of talks and screenings with South London Gallery, as well as curating seven exhibitions including Cildo Meireles’ installation ‘Occasion’ at the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground, Chelsea College of Art & Design, in conjunction with the artist’s retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern.

I am currently working as co-investigator (with Prof. Valerie Fraser at the University of Essex and Dr Isobel Whitelegg at TrAIN) of a large three years AHRC funded research project entitled Meeting Margins: Transnational Art in Latin America and Europe 1950-1978.