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About Art in Conflict

In partnership with the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and an international academic team, this project investigates conflicts and compromises arising within official schemes for commissioning Australian contemporary war art.


Since 2007, the AWM has built on its Official War Artist scheme to transform the commissioning of war art, engaging high profile contemporary artists to produce often challenging work. This project shines a critical light upon this important yet under-researched national collection of art, placing it at the centre of current discussions around contemporary art and war. This investigation seeks to continue to transform the AWM’s curatorial approaches and build an enduring digital archive of analysis and interpretation.


This project will increase scholarly and public engagement with the AWM’s collection of commissioned contemporary war art, placing it as the focus of published international scholarly debates surrounding art and war, and allowing greater public physical and intellectual access with an exhibition and enduring digital archive of analysis and interpretation. It aims to serve as a model to transform similar official war art commissions internationally.

Research Team

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Photo: Courtesy University of Newcastle

Prof Kit Messham-Muir
Chief Investigator 1
Curtin University

Professor Kit Messham-Muir is an art theorist, educator, researcher and critic based at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Since 1997, Prof Messham-Muir has taught art history at universities in Australia and Hong Kong and won multiple awards for teaching.  He publishes frequently in peer-reviewed and popular press (Artforum, Art & Australia, The Conversation) and directs the StudioCrasher video project. In 2015, A/Prof Messham-Muir published the book, Double War: Shaun Gladwell, visual culture and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Thames & Hudson Australia). He is the Lead Investigator on Art in Conflict, a three-year ARC Linkage project in partnership with the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and National Trust (NSW) and in collaboration with academics from University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales and University of Manchester.  Art in Conflict receives a Linkage Project grant (LP170100039) from the Australian Research Council of $293,380 over 2018-2021.  

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Prof Charles Green
Chief Investigator 2
University of Melbourne

Professor Charles Green is an artist, art critic and art historian specialising in the history of international and Australian art after 1960, with a particular focus on photography, post-object and post-studio art. He supervises theses on international and Australian contemporary art, and on art after the 1960s. He teaches courses on international and Australian art since the 1970s, and has taught cinema subjects on artists in film. He is specifically interested in helping students to develop research on art history that is both theoretically-informed and involves close primary research.


Assoc Prof Uroš Čvoro
Chief Investigator 3
University of New South Wales Sydney

Assoc Prof Uroš Čvoro is an art theorist at UNSW Sydney. His research interests include contemporary art and politics, cultural representations of nationalism, post-socialist and post-conflict art. His recent books include Transitional Aesthetics: Art at The Edge of Europe (Bloomsbury, 2018) and Turbo-folk Music and Cultural Representations of National Identity in Former Yugoslavia (Ashgate, 2014). 

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Ryan Johnston
Chief Investigator 4
Buxton Contemporary

Ryan Johnston is Director, Buxton Contemporary, the new contemporary art museum at the University of Melbourne’s Southbank campus. His professional experience in the museum and university sectors includes being Head of Art at the Australian War Memorial (2012-2018) where he oversaw one of the most significant collections of Australian art ranging from the 19th century to the present day. In this role, he managed Australia’s Official War Art Scheme, through which contemporary artists are deployed to conflict zones around world. While at the Memorial he also developed a wide-ranging contemporary art commissioning program to address the complex histories and legacies of conflict. Prior to joining the Memorial, Ryan was Acting Director of the Shepparton Art Museum in Victoria, and he also worked for several years as a lecturer in the former School of Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne, teaching subjects on modern and contemporary art. His research focuses on post-war and contemporary art.

Photo credit: Zan Wimberley

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Prof Ana Carden-Coyne
Partner Investigator (International)
University of Manchester

Professor Ana Carden-Coyne is Director of the Centre for the Cultural History of War (CCHW) at the University of Manchester. She is a historian and curator. Her publications include The Politics of Wounds(Oxford University Press, 2014); Reconstructing the Body(Oxford University Press, 2009); (Ed) Gender and Conflict Since 1914 (Palgrave, 2012), and a special edition on disability, European Review of History (2007). She co-curated a major exhibition with Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth Art Gallery, The Sensory War, 1914-2014 (Oct 2014-Feb 2015) attracting over 203,000 visitors, and for the Somme centenary, Visions of the Front, 1916-18(Whitworth Art Gallery).  Other current projects include a special edition of Cultural and Social History on Young Peopleand the Two World Wars(with Kate Darian Smith); project on the Art of Resilience with the Dutch Military academy; and an exhibition with Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery on Artists, War and Humanitarianism. 


Dr Anthea Gunn
Partner Investigator 1

Senior Curator of Art, Australian War Memorial

Dr Anthea Gunn completed a PhD in art history for her thesis Imitation Realism and Australian Art in 2010 at the ANU. She worked as a social history curator at the National Museum of Australia (2008-13) and has been at the Australian War Memorial since 2014, where she is Senior Curator of Art. She has published in the Journal of Australian Studies and the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, amongst others. She has curated contemporary commissions and exhibitions and was lead curator of the online exhibition, Art of Nation: Australia’s official art and photography of the First World War.


Laura Webster
Partner Investigator 2
Head of Art, Australian War Memorial

Laura Webster has worked in the Art section of the Australian War Memorial since 2006 and has been Senior Curator of Art since 2015, and currently acting Head of Art. Her major projects have included the Anzac Centenary Print Portfolio (2016), the contemporary diorama commissions in the redeveloped First World War galleries by artists Arlo Mountford and Alexander Mckenzie (2015), Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan (2013), Perspectives: Jon Cattapan; eX de Medici (2010) and Sidney Nolan: the Gallipoli series (2009). At the Memorial she has been part of the transformation of the art commissioning program and regularly commissions contemporary works of art and publishes on the collection. 

Jess Day.PNG

Jess Day
Art in Conflict PhD Scholar
Curtin University

Jess Day is a Perth-based artist and recipient of Curtin University's Art in Conflict PhD Stipend Scholarship.  She joined the Art in Conflict Team in January 2019 and is currently researching the relationship between the material culture of official institutions that collect and memorialize war and the counter material culture of 'prepper' movements, in both the United States and Australia. The Art in Conflict Stipend Scholarship is funded by the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University as part of the university's contribution to the Art in Conflict Linkage project. 

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