Home Open Arts Objects

Open Arts Objects

The primary sources for Art History include tactile material objects: paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics, porcelain, textiles etc. This project from the Open University explores a series of vivid objects from ancient times to the present, showing how each is not merely a seductive or beautiful artwork or artefact, but can also reveal fascinating histories and connections. In short videos on selected objects, members of the department showcase their innovative research to the public; the series sheds light on some of the unsolved mysteries of material objects, exploring what is left out of standard art history textbooks. It also teaches viewers how to look closely—a critical tool for Art History. The objects explored include paintings, sculpture, prints, ceramics, architecture and design, film and video, and installation and performance art.

This project is part of the current strategy within the OU to develop a series of public facing initiatives that can help inspire wider and diverse constituencies to enjoy and understand art works and visual culture. We are producing a parallel and linked video project for the OU platform OpenLearn, Travelling Objects which explores a series of objects that have travelled and/or have been used across cultures, borders and geographies, which will be connected to the new BBC series Civilisations. Travelling Objects and Civilisations go live in 2017.

Open Arts Objects is working closely with teachers and communities across the UK to provide teaching support material that can be widely used in schools and community groups. If you are interested in receiving materials to trial at A-level, or would like to join our working group, please contact us at openartsobjects@open.ac.uk.

We also now have a Facebook group and an Instagram account (check in every Monday for #materialmondays when we post an interesting object/work of art at the start of every week).


Objects of Art History: Cornelia Parker's Cold Dark Matter, An Exploded View

Professor Gill Perry explores an installation by the British artist Cornelia Parker, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991, which involved blowing up a garden shed and suspending its charred and broken fragments from the ceiling of an art gallery.


Objects of Art History: Mantegna's Adoration of the Magi

Dr Leah Clark discusses the global dimensions of a painting by the Renaissance court artist Andrea Mantegna.


Objects of Art History: Woman taking tea

Dr Emma Barker discusses an eighteenth-century painting of a lady having a cup of a drink newly fashionable at the time – tea.


Objects of Art History: Cretan Orthodox Icon

Dr Angeliki Lymberopoulou examines a Cretan panel painting (icon), produced on the island during the period it was under Venetian domination, that copies the work of a famous Cretan master, Michael Damaskinos.


Objects of Art History: Catalogue - War Pictures at the National Gallery (1942)

Dr Veronica Davies examines a catalogue produced for an exhibition of war artists' work at the National Gallery in 1942.


Objects of Art History: Martha Rosler's 1970s postcard novel

Dr Amy Charlesworth explores the form and content of American artist Martha Rosler's postcard novels from the late 1970s through the lens of what has become known as 'feminist art histories'. 


Objects of Art History: The Pilkington Album (1893-94)

Dr Renate Dohmen explores a nineteenth-century scrap album, the equivalent of today’s Facebook, created by a young British woman who travelled to British India.


Objects of Art History: Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Professor Elizabeth McKellar explores Walton Hall, a classical country house, that now forms the centre of The Open University campus at Milton Keynes.


Objects of Art History: 1960s vinyl wallpaper

Dr Clare Taylor explores the design and purpose of this wallpaper whose pattern and colours were inspired by the new movements of the 1960s.


Objects of art history: Church of St Michael, Walton Hall, Buckinghamshire

Dr Susie West takes a look at the small medieval church of St Michael and its new life on a university campus.


Objects of Art History: The Laocoön Group

Dr Kathleen Christian discusses the history of the ancient statue ‘the Laocoön group' and its excavation in the Renaissance.


Objects of Art History: Plaquette of the Apollo and Marsyas

In this short film Dr Leah R Clark explores a Renaissance plaquette, which copies an image of Apollo and Marsyas from an ancient gem.


Objects of Art History: Roger Hiorns, Seizure, (2008)

Professor Gill Perry explores an installation by the British artist Roger Hiorns called  Seizure (2008). The artist poured 75,000 litres of heated copper sulphate solution into an abandoned ground floor flat in South London.