Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art

Dr Lena Fritsch

Dr Lena Fritsch

Dr Lena Fritsch
Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies

Research Interests

I have researched and published on a wide range of modern and contemporary art, including Japanese art and photography of the 20th and 21st Century, Agnes Martin’s paintings and writings, the work of Alberto Giacometti, A.R. Penck, Ibrahim El-Salahi etc. I guest co-curated the Roppongi Crossing 2022 triennial of contemporary Japanese art at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. In 2018 I published one of the first overviews on Japanese photography in English: 'Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography since 1945' (English version with Thames & Hudson and Japanese version with Seigensha). 

My PhD and book 'The Body as a Screen: Japanese Art Photography of the 1990s' (2011) examined the human body as a motif in Japanese photographic art of the 1990s, with particular reference to socio-cultural issues. In 2012, I translated Daido Moriyama’s photo book 'The Tales of Tono' into English, to coincide with a survey of the artist at Tate Modern. Alongside this, I’m interested in the work of forgotten women photographers; Neo-Expressionism; visual art and music; Neo-Expressionism, the relationship of visual art and text; visual art and music; death as a subject in art; collective memory and national identity; body and gender theories.


As Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, I am responsible for the care and development of the Ashmolean’s post-1945 art collections. One area that I currently focus on is Neo-Expressionist works on paper, with the aim of building a representative and inclusive collection. This project has been made possible with a New Collecting Award by the Art Fund. I develop programmes and exhibitions of international modern and contemporary art, most recently 'Ashmolean NOW: Flora Yukhnovich x Daniel Crews-Chubb', 'Young & Wild? Art in 1980s Germany', 'Tokyo: Art & Photography', 'A.R. Penck: I Think in Pictures' and ‘Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Sudanese Artist in Oxford’. I’m also involved in research, publication, and teaching at the University of Oxford (Faculty of Oriental Studies, and History of Art). I’m an Associate Member of Nuffield College.

Before joining the Ashmolean in 2017, I worked as Assistant Curator, International Art at Tate Modern. I co-curated the large-scale retrospective exhibitions ‘Giacometti’ (2017) and ‘Agnes Martin’ (2015), and curated displays of works by artists such as Ai Weiwei and Simryn Gill. Together with the Asian Pacific Acquisitions Committee I helped Tate acquire major works by artists from the Asia-Pacific region. Before coming to the UK in 2013, I worked at the Directorate General, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin. I studied Art History, Japanese studies and English studies at Bonn University, Germany and Keio University, Tokyo and taught at the Art Academy Munster.

Featured Publications

2023 Art in the Age of the New Normal: Thoughts on Works by Ichihara Etsuko, AKI INOMATA and Inose Naoya in: 'Roppongi Crossing 2022: Coming & Going', Mori Art Museum exhibition catalogue, Tokyo, pp.179–185

2021 Tokyo: Art & Photography, Ashmolean exhibition catalogue, Oxford, 288pp

2019 A.R. Penck: I Think in Pictures, Ashmolean exhibition catalogue, Oxford, 124pp

2018 'Ravens & Red Lipstick. Japanese Photography since 1945', London, New York and Kyoto, 288pp

2018 Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Sudanese Artist in Oxford, Ashmolean exhibition catalogue, Oxford, 72pp

2017 Giacometti, Tate Modern exhibition catalogue, London, co-editorship with Frances Morris, 304pp

2017 Alberto Giacometti, Tate Introductions, London, 80pp

2017 Wenn ich an Kunst denke, denke ich an Schönheit – Agnes Martins Schriften [When I think of Art I think of Beauty – Agnes Martin’s Writings], in: Renate Kroll and Susanne Gramatzki (eds.), Künstlerinnen schreiben, Berlin, pp.182–191

2016 Dark Pagodas and an Empty Bowl, in: Thomas Seelig (ed.), Jungjin Lee ECHO, Fotomuseum Winterthur exhibition catalogue, Winterthur, pp.61–66

2016 Endless Circles and Energetic Lines – Recent Works by Enrico Isamu Ōyama’, in: Enrico Isamu Ōyama. Like a Prime Number, New York, pp.16–20

2015 Kleider machen Leute: Die Adaption westlicher Kleidung im Meiji-Japan [Clothes Make the Man: The Adaptation of Western Clothing in Meiji Japan], in: Christiane Kühn (ed.), Zartrosa und Lichtblau: Japanische Fotografie der Meiji-Zeit 1868–1912, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin exhibition catalogue, Berlin, pp.37–46

2015 Von dunkler Dekadenz und christlicher Mystik: Verbindungen zwischen Geoffrey Hills Gedicht “A Pre-Raphaelite Notebook” und präraffaelitischen Bildern [Dark Decadence and Christian Mysticism: Relationships Between Geoffrey Hill’s Poem “A Pre-Raphaelite Notebook” and Pre-Raphaelite Paintings],in: Susanne Gramatzki and Renate Kroll (eds.), Wie Texte und Bilder zusammenfinden, Berlin, pp.83–94

2015 Well, I sit here and wait to be inspired: Photographs of Agnes Martin, in: Frances Morris (ed.), Agnes Martin, Tate Modern exhibition catalogue, London, pp.206–21

2015 The Floating Dresses of Hiroshima: War Memory in Ishiuchi Miyako’s Photography, in: Ayelet Zohar (ed.): Beyond Hiroshima: The Return of the Suppressed, Tel Aviv University gallery exhibition catalogue, Tel Aviv, pp.56–63

2014 Die Verpackung zählt! Miwa Yanagis fotografische Serie »Elevator Girls« (1998) und die Kunst des Verhüllens in japanischen Kaufhäusern [Wrapping Matters! Miwa Yanagi’s photographic series „Elevator Girls“ and the Art of Wrapping in Japanese Department Stores], in: Ute Seiderer and Michael Fisch (eds.): Haut und Hülle. Umschlag und Verpackung, Berlin, pp.194–206

2014 The Bittersweet Beauty of Ephemerality: Ishiuchi Miyako’s Photography, in: Louise Wolthers and Dragana Vujanovic (eds.), Miyako Ishiuchi: Hasselblad Award 2014, Heidelberg, pp.137–42

2012 Daido Moriyama. 'Tales of Tono' (Translation from the Japanese and Introduction), London, 192pp

2011 'The Body as a Screen: Japanese Art Photography of the 1990s', Hildesheim, 372pp

2008 Yasumasa Morimuras “Self-Portrait as Actress”: Überlegungen zur Identität. Saarbrücken, 144pp