Emeritus Professor Chris McAuliffe

BA (Hons), MA, PhD
Emeritus Professor
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Art Criticism 190101
  • Art History 190102
  • Art Theory 190103
  • Visual Cultures 190104
  • Curatorial And Related Studies 2102


Chris McAuliffe is an art historian, art critic, curator and museum professional. He took a BA (Hons) and MA from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from Harvard University with a dissertation on postmodern theory and the visual arts. Dr McAuliffe taught art history and theory at the University of Melbourne (1988-2000).

From 2000-13 Dr McAuliffe was director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, managing a collection ranging from classical antiquity to contemporary art and an annual exhibition program of Australian and international art. In 2008, with the support of philanthropist Basil Sellers, he established the Basil Sellers Art Prize, one of the richest art prizes in Australia. He has served on numerous boards and committees within the arts and museum sectors, including the Council of the National Gallery of Victoria, board of the Samstag Museum (UniSA), board of the Castlemaine Art Museum, selection panel for the Australian pavilion of the Venice Biennale, Chair of program funding committee for Arts Victoria and the Vic Urban public art panel.

At ANU, Dr McAuliffe served variously as Professor (Practice-led Reserach) in the School of Art & Design, Head of the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, and Sir William Dobell Chair. He was active in research policy, especially in NTRO fields, and acted as chair of the SOA&D Research Committee and HDR convenor.

Exhibitions curated by Dr McAuliffe include Robert Smithson: Time Crystals (University of Queensland Art Museum, 2018),  We who love: The Nolan slates (University of Queensland Art Museum, 2016), America: Painting a Nation (Art Gallery of NSW, 2013), Game On: Art and Sport (Ian Potter Museum of Art, 2006), See Here Now: the Vizard Foundation Collection (Ian Potter Museum of Art, 2003), as well as collection installations at the Ian Potter Museum of Art.

Dr McAuliffe has published numerous articles on Australian and international art, with a focus on artists' engagement with vernacular and popular culture, including suburbia, sport, punk and rock music. Principle publications include Jon Cattapan: Possible Histories (Melbourne University Publishing, 2008), Linda Marrinon: Let Her Try (Thames and Hudson, 2007) and Art and Suburbia (Craftsman House, 1996). A co-authored book on Fringe to Famous: Cultural Production in Australia After the Creative Industries, supported by an ARC Discovery grant, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury 2023.

Dr McAuliffe has particpated in arts programming on ABC radio and television, including acting as an advisor to the recent productions Finding the Archibald and Great Southern Landscapes.


Researcher's projects

Current projects include:

Dialogue with difficult objects: Mediating controversy in museums An ARC linkage project in partnership with Dr Raquel Ormalla (ANU), Assoc Prof Fred Cahir (Federation University), Anthony Camm (Eureka Centre), and Louise Tegart (Art Gallery of Ballarat).

Recently completed projects include:

Fringe to famous: An ARC-funded project examining the crossover between alternative and mainstream Australian cultural production. (In partnership with Monash University.)

Keynote address for the exhibition Tony Tuckson: The Abstract Sublime, Art Gallery of NSW, November 2018.

Robert Smithson: Time Crystals, 2018.  The first exhibition on the work of American artist Robert Smithson to be staged in Australia. This exhibition included loans from Australian and American museums, as well as the largest ever loan from the Robert Smithson papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Co-curated with Dr Amelia Barikin (U of Queensland), the exhibition was presented at the University of Queensland Art Musuem (March-June) and Monash University Museum of Art (July-September).

'From free agency to containment: Football and spectacle in contemporary art' A study of the motifs of imprisonment, containment and subjection in contemporary artists' images of soccer in the anthology Daniel Haxall (ed.), Picturing the Beautiful Game: Essays on soccer and visual culture, Bloomsbury, 2018.

'Mambo Clothing and Australian Nobrow: Wearable Art for a Global Audience', in Peter Swirski and Tero Vanhanen (eds), When Highbrow Meets Lowbrow: Popular Culture and the Rise of Nobrow, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

We who love: The Nolan Slates An exhibition and catalogue presenting 33 paintings on roofing slates made by Sir Sidney Nolan in 1941-1942. Made at a time of great personal and artistic upheaval, the paintings offer new insights into the development of Nolan's distinctive version of modernism. The exhibition was staged at the University of Queensland Art Museum, April - July 2016 and Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, October 2016 - April 2017.


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  23 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers