Faculty Directory

Isaac Julien
  • Title
    • Distinguished Professor
  • Division Humanities Division
  • Department
    • History of Consciousness Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Mail Stop History Of Consciousness

Biography, Education and Training

Born in 1960, Isaac Julien lives and works in London and Santa Cruz, California. He has been making films and producing film installations for over forty years, including Once Again… (Statues Never Die) (2022), Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement (2019), Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass (2019), Stones Against Diamonds (2015), PLAYTIME (2014), Ten Thousand Waves (2010), Western Union: Small Boats (2007), Fantôme Afrique (2005), True North (2004), Baltimore (2003), Paradise Omeros (2002), Vagabondia (2000), and Long Road to Mazatlan (1999).


Forthcoming solo and group exhibitions in 2024 include Entangled Pasts, 1768–now, Royal Academy, London; Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour - Frederick Douglass, Tang Teaching Museum, New York; A Model, Mudam – The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg; Soulscapes, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, among others. 


Recent and current international solo and group exhibitions include: Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me, Tate Britain, London; touring to K21, Germany; Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Netherlands (2023-2024); Isaac Julien: Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour - Frederick Douglass, National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour - Frederick Douglass, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Oregon; I Am Seen…Therefore, I Am: Isaac Julien and Frederick Douglass, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Connecticut; Isaac Julien: PLAYTIME, PalaisPopulaire, Germany; Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA; Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement, Yale School of Architecture, Connecticut (2023); Isaac Julien: Once Again… (Statues Never Die), Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour - Frederick Douglass, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, USA; Isaac Julien, Goslar Kaiserring, Mönchehaus Museum, Goslar, Germany; Details of Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 – 1971, Academy Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s-Now, Tate Britain, London, UK, touring to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (2022-2023); Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, USA; Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco (2021); Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement, MAXXI, Rome, Italy (2020) touring to Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte NC, USA; Galeria Helga de Alvear, Madrid, Spain; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia (2021-2022); Isaac Julien: Western Union: Small Boats, Neuberger Museum, New York; Masculinities: Liberation through Photography​, Barbican Art Gallery, London, travelling to Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, among others (2020); Baltimore at the Baltimore Museum of Art (2019-2020); Isaac Julien: Frederick Douglass: Lessons of the Hour, ​SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2019); Looking for Langston, Tate Britain (2019); PLAYTIME at LACMA (2019); Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, Gibbes Museum (2019). Also in 2019, Julien's PLAYTIME was featured as part of Ruby City's inaugural programme.


Previously, Julien has had solo exhibitions at venues including ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (2018); The Whitworth, Manchester (2018); The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2017); MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2016), MUAC (Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo), Mexico City (2016); the De Pont Museum, Netherlands (2015); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), Art Institute of Chicago (2013), Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2012), Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo (2012), Bass Museum, Miami, Florida, USA (2010), Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2009), Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea - Museu do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal (2008), Kestnergesellschaft Hanover (2006), Pompidou Centre Paris (2005), and MoCA Miami (2005). 


In 2023, Julien was ranked fifth in the Art Review ‘Power 100’ list.


In 2022, Julien received Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for the Platinum Jubilee year and was honoured with the esteemed Kaiserring Goslar Award. 


In 2019, Julien was appointed to the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Julien and independent curator and writer Mark Nash, the former head of contemporary art at the Royal College of Art in London, developed the Isaac Julien Lab at the UC Santa Cruz campus, which provides students with the opportunity to assist Julien and Nash with project research and the production of moving image and photographic works in California and London.


In 2017, Julien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the Arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and was the recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award.