Dr. Monica Merlin

Assistant Professor


+974 4402 0780
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Chinese art history and visual culture


2013 - DPhil, Art History, University of Oxford

2007 - MA, Asian Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London

2004 - BA, Chinese Studies, Art and Archaeology, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice


Before joining VCUarts Qatar, Dr Monica Merlin was Programme Leader for the MA Contemporary Arts China at the Birmingham School of Art (Birmingham City University) and previously taught in the postgraduate courses at Christie’s Education (London), validated then by the University of Glasgow.

Monica lived and worked in Beijing for two years after a BA in Chinese Studies specialising in Chinese Art and Archaeology at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice). She returned to Europe to pursue an MA in Asian Art at SOAS University of London (2007), and worked for two years as curator at a contemporary Asian art gallery in London. In 2009 Monica continued her studies gaining a DPhil (2013) at the University of Oxford with a thesis on early modern Chinese art.

Monica conducted a funded post-doctoral research (2013-14) at the Tate Research Centre: Asia with a project on contemporary Chinese women artists which led to the creation of a small archive of interviews which are available on the Tate’s website. Her major research interests lie in contemporary Chinese art and visual culture, women artists, gender and feminism, global art and transcultural communication.

Research Interests

  • Chinese art history
  • Chinese contemporary art
  • Asian and global contemporary art
  • Women artists, feminism and gender
  • New museum studies

Teaching Experience

Sept 2017 – Sept 2018
Programme Leader and Lecturer, MA Contemporary Arts China, Birmingham School of Art, Birmingham City University.

Dec 2014 – Aug 2017
Lecturer, MA Arts of China, Christie’s Education (London), affiliated to and validated by the University of Glasgow.


(forthcoming) Selected entries on Contemporary Chinese Art, Enciclopedia Italiana dell’Arte Contemporanea Treccani (2020)

(2019) ‘Gender (still) matters in Chinese Contemporary Art’, Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 6.1, 5–15.

(2018) ‘Cao Fei. Rethinking the global/local discourse’, Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 5.1 (2018), 41–60. Doi: 10.1386/jcca.5.1.41_1

(2018) Women Artists in Contemporary China (2018) http://www.tate.org.uk/research/research-centres/tate-research-centre-asia/women-artists-contemporary-china

(2015) ‘Whose Utopia. Cao Fei’, Tate ETC, Spring 2015. http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/whose-utopia

(2011) ‘The Nanjing Courtesan Ma Shouzhen (1548–1604): Gender, Space and Painting in the Late Ming Pleasure Quarter’, Gender & History, Vol. 23 No.3 (Nov 2011), 631–65.

(2008) ‘Ma Shouzhen, Visuality and Alfred Gell’s Anthropological Theory of Art’, Phoenix In Domo Foscari, n.1, 2008, The Online Journal of Oriental Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, 237–250.

Book reviews

Art by the Book. Painting Manuals and the Leisure Life in Late Ming China (2012) by J.P. Park, in East Asian Publishing and Society 4.2 (2014), 168–9.

Reproducing Women: Medicine, Metaphor, and Childbirth in Late Imperial China by Yi-Li Wu in, Gender & History, Vol.23 No.2 (Aug 2011), 454–456.


Selected presentations

‘Rethinking timelines. Women artists and performance art in mainland China’, EACS Biennial Conference, University of Glasgow, 28-31 August 2018.

‘Body, Gender and Space: Chinese women Artists from 1980s until today’, Ashmolean Museum of Art, Oxford 16th June 2018.

‘Rethinking Women Artists and Gender in Contemporary Chinese Art’, Symposium Gender in Chinese Contemporary Art, Tate Modern, 22 February 2018.

‘Whose Utopia, Factory-scape and the Ecology of the Chinese Dream’, in Trauma and Utopia. Interactions in Post-war and Contemporary art in Asia, collaborative conference organised by Tate Research Centre: Asia-Pacific & Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 9–10 Oct 2014.

‘Ai Weiwei & the Power of Art’, Autumn Lecture Series at Christie’s Kings Street, 18 Nov 2015.

‘Visual strategies of self-fashioning in paintings by the late Ming courtesan Ma Shouzhen (1548–1604)’, AAS Association of Asia Studies, Annual Conference, Philadelphia 27–30 March 2014.


  • Research Associate, Centre for Chinese Visual Arts and the Birmingham School of Art, Birmingham City University (2018-21)
  • Post-doctoral fellowship at Tate Research Centre: Asia sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2013-14)
  • Florey-Henkel European Scholarship, Queen’s College, University of Oxford, 2009–12
  • Research travel grant, UCCL (Universities’ China Committee in London), Spring 2011
  • Postgraduate Research Grant, The Royal Historical Society, 2011
  • SOAS University of London Open Scholarship, 2006–7