Dr Brian Dillon


  • Brian Dillon is a writer and critic, and UK editor of Cabinet magazine. He is the author of several books of criticism, fiction, memoir and creative nonfiction. He contributes regularly to art magazines, newspapers and journals in the UK, USA and Ireland.

  • Biography

  • Brian Dillon studied English and Philosophy at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, before completing a PhD in English at the University of Kent in 1999. His thesis was on conceptions of time in twentieth-century literary criticism and theory, and dealt primarily with the work of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, Jean-François Lyotard and Giorgio Agamben. He taught in the School of English at Kent until 2004, when he became a full-time freelance writer.

    Since 2001 Brian Dillon has been writing on art, books and culture for many publications in the UK and elsewhere. His book reviews and essays have appeared in the GuardianNew York TimesWhite Review, London Review of BooksGorse, Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Times. He writes regularly on contemporary art for such publications as friezeArtforumArt ReviewAperture and Tate etc. Since 2003 he has been UK editor of Cabinet, a quarterly journal of art and culture based in New York. He has curated exhibitions for Tate Britain and Hayward Touring, and written catalogue essays for artists such as Helen Marten, Rachel Whiteread, David Noonan, Eva Rothschild and Damien Hirst. He is a regular speaker on art and culture at institutions such as Tate, the Pompidou Centre, the British Museum, the Wellcome Collection and Whitechapel Gallery. 

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  • Practice

  • Brian Dillon’s first book, a memoir entitled In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005), won the Irish Book Award for non-fiction. His second, Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (Penguin, 2009) was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize. In 2008, he was awarded an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts. His project, based at the University of Kent, ran from 2008 to 2011 and was entitled ‘Ruins of the Twentieth Century’. Its  outcomes included a novella, Sanctuary (Sternberg Press, 2011); an anthology of artists’ writings, Ruins (Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press, 2011); Ruin Lust, an exhibition at Tate Britain in 2014, and accompanying catalogue.

    In 2013 he curated Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing for Hayward Touring – this exhibition included works by Leonardo da Vinci, JMW Turner, Tacita Dean and Susan Hiller, and it travelled among other venues to Turner Contemporary, Margate, and De Appel, Amsterdam. A collection of Dillon’s essays on art and literature, Objects in This Mirror, was published by Sternberg Press in 2014. His book The Great Explosion (Penguin, 2015) was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize for a book about the ‘spirit of a place’. His current projects include Essayism, a book about the contemporary relevance of the essay as form, to be published by Fitzcarraldo press in 2017; and a book about Powell and Pressburger’s 1944 film A Canterbury Tale, to be published by the British Film Institute in 2018.

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Selected work