Chris McAuliffe is an art historian, writer and curator based in Melbourne and Victoria’s central goldfields region.



Dr Chris McAuliffe was educated at the University of Melbourne, where he took a BA Hons (1982) with a thesis on Australian film. He also completed an MA (1986) on Australian art criticism. He then took a PhD at Harvard University (1997) with a dissertation on postmodern critical theory and American art.


Dr McAuliffe taught art history and theory at the University of Melbourne (1988–2000) and Victoria College, Prahran (1988–89). In 2011–12, he was the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University, based in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. His teaching has focused primarily on art after the Second World War, in courses such as ‘Art and mass culture in the 1960s’, ‘You beaut country: Australian art in the 1950s’, ‘Postmodern prospects’ and ‘Sound and vision: art and popular music’.

Museums and curating

From 2000 to 2013, Dr McAuliffe was Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne. He oversaw an art collection ranging from pre-Classical antiquity through to the present and an annual exhibition program featuring historical and contemporary, Australian and international art. Dr McAuliffe’s work as an exhibition curator reflects his interdisciplinary approach and interest in the meeting of art and mass culture. Key projects include ‘Eyes on the ball: art and Australian rules football’ (1996) and ‘The Shilo project’ (2010) in which over 100 contemporary Australian artists made works using the sleeve of a Neil Diamond LP. In 2013, he was curatorial consultant for the exhibition ‘America: painting a nation’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Dr McAuliffe has served on numerous community and government arts committees including: the Council of Trustees, the National Gallery of Victoria; the board of the Samstag Art Museum, UniSA; public art panel, VicUrban; the selection committee for the Australian Pavilion, 2011 Venice Biennale; and the Arts Victoria programming and festival fund.


Dr McAuliffe is the author of over 130 books, academic papers, articles and reviews on Australian art, rock’n’roll, sport, design and cultural politics. He has written subjects as diverse as nineteenth century sculpture, art school punk bands, the Zapruder film and the Occupy movement, as well as numerous analyses of the work of individual artists.

Key publications include:

  • Art and suburbia (Craftsman House, 1996): an historical survey of the motif of the suburbs in Australian art, from the nineteenth century workers’ paradise through the anti- and pro-suburban rhetoric of the twentieth century.
  • Linda Marrinon: let her try (Thames and Hudson, 2007): a monograph on a Melbourne artist engaged with Renaissance portraiture, Manga cartooning and nineteenth century academic sculpture.
  • Jon Cattapan: possible histories (Melbourne University Publishing, 2008): a biographical study of a Melbourne artist’s passage through a suburban childhood, art school, punk rock and a sustained engagement with the politics of globalism.


Dr McAuliffe has been a media commentator on the arts since the late 1980s, commencing with public radio appearances in Melbourne and graduating to regular appearances on the national ABC radio and TV network. He was a panelist on ABC’s On the couch and for four years was a presenter on Sunday arts where he developed, scripted and presented stories on contemporary art and major museum exhibitions. Between 2006 and 2008, he was a weekly arts commentator on ABC Radio National.

Current activities

Dr McAuliffe is an Honorary Fellow at the Australian Centre, School of Culture and Communications, the University of Melbourne.

Current research projects include:

  • The global circulation of Jackson Pollock’s drip-painting as a pop cultural meme
  • The interaction of art and rock’n’roll since the 1950s
  • Visual culture and nationalism in nineteenth century Australian art
  • ‘Fringe to Famous’; an Australian Research Council-funded project exploring the pathway from periphery to mainstream in Australian culture




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