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Dr Simon Willems

Dr Simon Willems portrait

Areas of interest

I am currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow based between the Art department and Henley Business School. My fellowship project, Rethinking Wellbeing: Evaluating the Neoliberalisation of Wellbeing in the Workplace Using Artworks as a Critical Lens, examines how contemporary artists critique wellbeing programmes within organisations by challenging how different aspects of neoliberalism underpin them. Building on the hermit/corporate team-building participant duality that fuelled my doctoral research, and which grounds my artistic practice, my research investigates how organisational austerity measures and a social construct of wellbeing, created by Human Resources Management, conflicts with employee wellbeing in servicing organisational interests. Central to this analysis is a virtue ethics approach to organisations, in tandem with Critical Management Studies, which examines how individualised wellbeing practices negate employees’ needs and obscure structural inequalities, undermining the common good.

I am a practising artist and exhibit nationally and internationally. I have written and published articles in the Journal of Contemporary of Painting, the Journal of Organizational Aesthetics and the painting journal Turps Banana. I am currently writing my first monograph, Rethinking Wellbeing Through Art: How Artists Critique Wellness in the Workplace (Palgrave Macmillan). Although my work as an artist is primarily concerned with painting, this has developed alongside curatorial projects in all media that have increasingly focussed on organisational aesthetics and the role of neoliberalism in shaping wellbeing initiatives in working environments.

Academic qualifications

I studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University (1991-1994) and Painting at the Royal College of Art (1998-2000), before completing my practice-based PhD in Fine Art at the University of Reading in 2019. My doctoral research explored the characterisation of anonymity in contemporary figurative painting.

Selected publications

Willems, Simon and Warren, Samantha (2020) 'Presenting whilst retreating in the age of the corporate lanyard,' Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 9: Iss. 1, 1-17. Available at:

Willems, Simon (2019), ‘Forging reality: Surface and reductionism in the work of Dick Bengtsson’, Journal of Contemporary Painting, 5:2, pp. 233–252, doi:

Willems, Simon (2020) 'Against the audience: hermits in art history', Turps Banana, Issue 23, Pages 62-67.

Willems, Simon (2017) 'Norbert Schwontkowski', Turps Banana, Issue 18, Pages 60-67.


Selected Solo Exhibitions including:

2019 Step Away From the Sun - You Are Blocking the Light, Jugg Art Foundation, Ipswich, UK
2019 How Not to Disappear Completely, Elephant West, London
2018 Killing Me Softly, Galerie Polaris, Paris, France
2015 Universal Solutions Incorporated,  Xero, Kline & Coma, London
2011 A Certain Way to Fade, Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles
2005 Strangeways Here We Come, Wallspace, New York
2004 Bad things even happen to nice people, FRAC Auvergne, Clermont Ferrand, France
2002 Folk Law, Percymiller Gallery, London
Selected Group Exhibitions including:

2022 Art of Management & Organisation conference exhibition, University of Liverpool and Bluecoat in collaboration with the Royal Standard, Liverpool
2022 Green, House of Ebata, Tokyo, Japan
2021 The Collection - National Museum of Gdansk, Poland
2021 Memento, La Collection du FRAC Auvergne, Musée Crozatier, Le Puy, France
2019 Annual Ipswich Biennial, (Uncommon or Garden, Jugg Art Foundation &
2019 Silent Street, Atlas House) Ipswich, UK
2016 Maisons pour Insomniaques, Rêve 1 FRAC Haute-Normandie, Le Garage, Saint-Saëns, France

Curatorial Projects including:

2022 Art of Management & Organisation conference exhibition, University of Liverpool and Bluecoat in collaboration with the Royal Standard, Liverpool 
2014 Artists' Film & Video Gala, City Lit at the Conservatoire, Blackheath, London
2013 Sitting with the Qualities of a Mountain, Blyth Gallery, Imperial College, London
2012 Let the World Slip, Lion & Lamb Gallery, London
2011 Please Drive Slowly Through Our Village, Fold Gallery, London

Selected Conferences including:

2023 International Society of Macintyrean Enquiry Conference, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain: ‘Using artworks as a window through which to re-examine Macintyre’s critique of neoliberal governance’.
2022 Art of Management & Organisation conference, University of Liverpool: ‘Art as Activism’
2018 Art of Management & Organisation conference, University of Brighton:  ‘Performance’


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