Dr Lucy Steeds

Job title:

Senior Lecturer in Art


Director for Art in Context; ECA Director of Ethics


Room E.27b, ECA Main Building, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF, UK


Lucy Steeds is a writer, teacher and occasional curator. Her research centres on art in its public moment, historically and around the world, where this has challenged norms in ways that are useful to reflect on here and today (broadly understood).

Lucy previously worked as an editor, teacher and research mentor at University of the Arts London (2007–22). She remains a Series Editor for the ‘Exhibition Histories’ books about contemporary art published there by Afterall in collaboration with international partners. Her curatorial experience is anchored in six years working at Arnolfini centre for the contemporary arts in Bristol (1998–2004), while somewhat more recent initiatives include ‘Exhibition Histories and Afrofictions’, together with Nkule Mabaso, for the Michaelis Galleries at the University of Cape Town (2017). Lucy has a PhD in cultural history from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2012).

Research interests

  • Exhibition histories for contemporary art
  • Art, globalisation, planetarity
  • Art and ecology


Lucy Steeds is responsible for the undergraduate courses that complement the Art Practice strand, centring thinking about contemporary art and ideas. As a part of this but more specifically, she is course organiser for Exhibiting at Large as Contemporary Artists (Stage 3), which explores how art crosses or spans contexts.

Lucy teaches – and supports ECA colleagues to teach – ethics as a core part of research design.



Lucy Steeds researches the exhibition of contemporary art, historically and around the world, where this is useful to reflect on here and now. She understands ‘exhibition’ in an expanded sense, as taking on myriad forms and without necessarily privileging the museum, gallery or biennial as host. She is interested in how contemporary art is shared and discussed, seeking to learn from eclectic practices and experiences.

As a Series Editor for the ‘Exhibition Histories’ books, Lucy has collaborated with authors, artists, curators and organisations across Europe and in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Together with Bo Choy, Charles Esche and David Morris, she co-edited the twelfth volume in the series, Art and Its Worlds: Exhibitions, Institutions and Art Becoming Public (2021). With other collaborators, Lucy has co-edited a trilogy of books about the presentation and mediation of contemporary art: The Curatorial Conundrum (2016), How Institutions Think (2017) and Curating after the Global (2019, all MIT Press). She is responsible for Exhibition in the ‘Documents of Contemporary Art’ series (Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, 2014).

Lucy is currently exploring an approach to art that focuses on its ecological exposure. This encourages attention to the vulnerabilities and interconnectedness of planetary life, while highlighting how art is both implicated and can implicate those it convenes. She has written on this topic for Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism (vol.49, no.3, September 2022), MODOS: Revista de História da arte (vol.7, no.4, February 2023) and MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul) Studies, 2023. More on Edinburgh Research Explorer here.

Current PhD students

Hanqing Ma

The Empathetic Gaze: Thinking through photographic and site-specific practice: being and embodied experience in ruinscape and gallery space

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Contemporary art
  • Exhibition histories
  • Ecological imperatives

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