Ivan Gaskell

Curator and Head of the Focus Gallery Project
Material Culture of North America and Europe, 16th through 20th centuries
Global Cultural Encounter
Philosophy of Museums and Material Culture: Epistemology, Ethics, Aesthetics

Ph.D. University of Cambridge                                                       photo by Justin Ides
M.A. University of London
B.A. Hons. University of Oxford

My work on material culture addresses intersections among history, art history, anthropology, and philosophy. My principal scholarly concern is to mobilize non-written traces of the past to illuminate aspects of the lives of human actors that would otherwise remain obscure. As well as writing individual historical case studies on topics ranging from seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, to Roman baroque sculpture, Native American baskets, and Congo textiles, I work on the philosophical plane of second order questioning. While on the faculty at Cambridge University, I collaborated with the late Salim Kemal to edit a ten book series of multi-author volumes, Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and the Arts. I have organized numerous experimental exhibitions at Harvard University, where I taught and curated between 1991 and 2011. I am the author, editor, or co-editor of eleven books, and have contributed to numerous journals and edited volumes in history, art history, and philosophy.

Selected Recent Publications:


  • “Ethical judgments in museums,” Art and Ethical Criticism, ed. Garry L. Hagberg (Oxford and Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), pp. 229-242
  • “Some Cherokee and Chitimacha baskets: problems of interpretation,” Iconographies Without Texts, ed. Paul Taylor (London: Warburg Institute, and Turin: Nino Aragno Editore, 2008), pp. 175-193
  • “Do subaltern artifacts belong in art museums?” (co-authored with A.W. Eaton), The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, ed. James O. Young and Conrad Brunk (Oxford and Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), pp. 235-267
  • Jesus Christ as the Divine Mercy by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski: The most influential Polish painting of the twentieth century?” Ars: Journal of the Institute of Art History of Slovak Academy of Sciences 42, 1, 2009, pp. 81-91
  • “Display,” Material Religion 7, 1, 2011 (special issue: Key Words in Material Religion), pp. 34-41
  • Spilt Ink: Aesthetic Globalization and Contemporary Chinese Art,” British Journal of Aesthetics 52, 2012, pp. 1-16


Read an interview with Professor Gaskell.


Ivan Gaskell's courses include:

871 Thinking with Things in North America
Contact Ivan Gaskell
Back to top