Dr Anna Dempster

Dr Anna Dempster


Anna M Dempster is a Fellow at Wolfson College. Her career spans both leading academic and cultural institutions, where her research interests in risk and uncertainty, trust and transparency and the creative process have been tried and tested in both theory and in practice.

Dr Anna Dempster

Anna is a Fellow at Wolfson College and sits on the Fine Arts Committee, informing the College’s programme of exhibitions, events and acquisitions. She has regularly curated exhibitions for the College, including both notable solo shows of leading contemporary artists and innovative group exhibitions. She is a member of the College Development Committee and was elected onto College Council in 2019. She is currently working on a book on the cultural history of Memento Mori and Vanitas and their re-interpretation by leading contemporary artists.  

She was previously Head of Academic Programmes at the Royal Academy of Arts, London where she developed and led a new and innovative portfolio of educational programmes, including public, private, and professional, short as well as long Courses and Classes, symposia, conferences and workshops – in subjects ranging from art practice (traditional and digital media), cultural and art history, as well as art business and management - with a sustained focus on the role of artists. She was responsible for a range of national and international partnerships including with leading museums, galleries and universities enabling institutional, academic and scholarly engagement, commercial enterprise as well as research - both linked with RA exhibitions and beyond them. In 2018, she became the Founding Programme Director of the Executive Master’s in Cultural Leadership, initiating a partnership with Maastricht University and successfully launching the RA’s first accredited Master’s Degree, to coincide with its 250th anniversary year in 2018.

Prior to joining the RA, Anna was Associate Professor at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, responsible for the Art Business, Finance and Management Unit on the flagship MA in Art Business where she taught strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship and research methods and other business subjects, all specially tailored for the art world. Before that, she was Director of Research at the Creative Industries Observatory, University of the Arts London, where with a major HEFCE grant, she oversaw and co-ordinated the analytical activities of a team of researchers tasked with evaluating the social, cultural and economic impact of the Creative Industries in London and collaborating with HE consortium partners in London as well as lead partners in India and China. 

She was Founding Director of the MSc/MA in Creative Industries at Birkbeck College, University of London where she taught and supervised on the BA, MA and PhD programmes. She has experience of teaching and research in leading academic institutions including the University of Cambridge, London Business School, Rotterdam School of Management and Maastricht University and she regularly consults for industry and policy-makers.

Anna holds a BA / MA Hons and MPhil degrees in History from the University of Cambridge – with a specialisation in Cultural History – and a PhD in Management Studies, specialising in Strategy, from the Cambridge Judge Business School. Her PhD on The Strategic Use of Announcement Options, which straddles strategy and finance, was supported by the coveted Lloyds Tercentenary Foundation Business Scholarship and won the Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

Since her PhD, Anna has been fascinated by Risk and Uncertainty – its definitions, impact, role and management - including in the creative process. She is interested in conditions of extreme uncertainty which characterise industries in times of turbulent change – including finance, hi-tech and the arts. She has written and lectured widely on the relationship between risk and creativity. Her book, Risk and Uncertainty in the Art World (2014) was the first complete overview of risk in the art market and remains a core text in Art Business. It was translated into Mandarin and re-published by Tsinghua University Press in 2018. She publishes in scholarly journals as well as leading industry publications, and her contributions have been reviewed by the national and international press.

A second strand of research focusses on Trust and Transparency. In 2013 she organised a seminal interdisciplinary conference The International Art Industry Forum on Trust and Transparency, and this conference, subsequent symposia at the Royal Academy, meetings and publications, have critically informed the ongoing debate on regulation, trust and transparency in both the commercial and public art world, including effects on public perception, access and engagement. She has academic research and professional interests in the wider field of art business, including issues of valuation, authentication, art market economics, and international trade. 

Anna speaks fluent Russian and regularly works with contemporary Russian art and artists and served on the Broad of Trustees for the UK Charity, Russian Arts Help. Anna has curated over 25 exhibitions of contemporary art and in 2010 founded the not-for-profit ArtSpace5-7, specifically to explore ideas central in both arts and sciences and the connections between them. At Wolfson College, she has curated a number of exhibitions including; The Geometry of Light (2015); Dualities: Christopher Le Brun (2018); Waste to Art (2020); Home, Taken (2021) and Kill or Cure (2022). 

Currently, she has returned to her academic roots and is working on a book on the cultural history of Memento Mori and Vanitas – investigating artistic reflections on the transience of life and its expressions in material culture – as well as the re-interpretation and treatment of this genre by leading contemporary artists.