School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Dr Rachel Wells

Lecturer in Art History/Theory



Rachel Wells is Lecturer in Art History and Theory. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art, with particular interest in issues of scale and distance, the address of responsibility, and the impact of globalisation on contemporary art production, exhibition and reception. Her book Scale in Contemporary Sculpture (Ashgate, 2013) was released in paperback by Routledge in 2016:


Before joining the department at Newcastle in 2011, Rachel was Tutor in Fine Art (History and Theory) at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University (2009-2011). Previously, Rachel taught at BA and MA level at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she was Henry Moore Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (2008-9).

Rachel received her PhD (2008) and MA (2004) from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London University. Prior to her study in the History of Art, Rachel read English at Cambridge University (BA 2003).

Rachel is a Fellow of The Higher Education Academy.


Research Interests

Rachel’s research interests encompass modern and contemporary art. Her book on Scale in Contemporary Sculpture (Ashgate, 2013) proposes a theorised account of the recent trend for enlargement, miniaturisation and the life-size in sculpture. In particular, the book traces the impact of postmodern theory on concepts of measurement and exaggeration, and analyses the relationship between this philosophy and the sculptural trend that has developed since the early 1990s.

Other interests include the relationship between sculpture and photography, the address of responsibility within contemporary art, and the impact of globalisation on recent art production, exhibition and reception.

Invited talks and conference papers:

'Art, Terror and Distance', Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum, London, March 2017. Further information is available here:

'Scale in Contemporary Art', Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Upon Tyne, November 2016.

'Ron Mueck and Scale in Contemporary Sculpture', Café des Artistes, part of the Artist Rooms Research Partnership led by Edinburgh University, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, March 2016. 

Public tour of 'Brian Griffiths: Bill Murray: A Story of Distance, Size and Sincerity', Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, January 2016.

Public tour of 'The Human Factor', Hayward Gallery, London, August 2014.

'Fact and Responsibility: Approaches Towards the Factual in Contemporary Art', Association of Art Historians (AAH), 40th conference, Royal College of Art, London, April 2014.

''Space-crossed Time': Wolfgang Weileder's Constructed Photography', Durham University History of Art Society, November 2013. 

Roundtable discussion: 'Representations of Slavery in Neoliberal Times', Newcastle University, May 2012.  

'Scale in Contemporary Sculpture', Ruskin Research Seminar, Oxford University, February 2012. 

AAH Schools' Conference: 'Ways of Seeing: Sculpture', Tate Britain, London, November 2011. 

Talk in the series 'The Digital Photograph and Memory', The Photographers' Gallery, London, September 2011. 

'Digital Scale: Enlargement and Intelligibility', The Versatile Image: Photography in the Era of Web 2.0, University of Sunderland conference, June 2011.

'Manfred Pernice: Tutti', talk as part of Schnellkritik!, Modern Art Oxford, October 2010. 

Public tour of 'Howard Hodgkin: Time and Place', Modern Art Oxford, July 2010.

'Bearing Responsibility: Santiago Sierra and Martin Creed', Ashmolean Museum and Oxford University History of Art Research Seminar Series, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, November 2009.

'Oldenburg's Travels: The Lagadian Language of Things', Intersections, Association of Art Historians (AAH) 35th conference, April 2009. 

'Beyond Resolution: Thomas Ruff's jpeg photographs of 9/11', Contestations, Association of Art Historians (AAH) 33rd conference, April 2007. 

'The Conway Library's Reed Collection of Nineteenth-Century Tourist Photographs', and 'The Standpoint of the Forsterian Tourist', Archaelogoies of the Standpoint, Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum Project, March and June 2006, published online. 


Rachel is currently on maternity leave.

Undergraduate Teaching

Rachel, as a 0.5FTE Lecturer, is teaching on the following modules in 2016/17:

  • 'Art Histories I' (stage 1) (Module Leader)
  • ‘Modern and Postmodern Photography' (stage 2/3) (Module Leader)

Postgraduate Teaching

Rachel is currently co-supervising four PhD students:

  • Kate Stobbart (with Chris Jones and Giles Bailey)
  • Narbi Price (with Nadia Hebson and Richard Talbot)
  • Elisabetta Fabrizi (with Uta Kogelsberger and Ian MacDonald)
  • Briony Carlin (with Chris Whitehead and Rhiannon Mason)

She has co-supervised the following PhD students to completion:

  • Anita Edenhofer, 'Presence in Absence: The use of electric light in fine art installations', submitted 2015.

Roles and Responsibilities

Departmental Library Representative

Art History Trip Co-Ordinator