Inspiring a New Generation of Art Historians

Leslie Primo is an art historian in the UK and has spent 20 years forging his career in the Art World.  

Leslie teaches art history at Imperial College London, whilst also keeping himself busy appearing on the television show Art on the BBC and writing his first book, From Renaissance to Abolition: A New History of British Art, due to be published in 2022. He is passionate about raising aspirations for a diverse body of students to follow in his footsteps and delve into the arts history world.  

Attending university wasn’t always an option for Leslie – he left school aged 16 with barely any qualifications and no awareness of higher education. It wasn’t until years later, whilst working in the National Gallery gift shop in London, that Leslie’s colleagues saw his passion for art history and suggested he apply for Birkbeck. He graduated from Birkbeck with a BA in History of Art in 2004, and later went on complete an MA in Renaissance Studies in 2010.  

Leslie recalls how at Birkbeck he received a huge amount of support, not only helping him adjust back into education after many years, but also identifying his dyslexia which hadn’t been picked up during schooling. This allowed him to receive additional support from Birkbeck’s disability office, including full funding for his first computer. Acknowledging his dyslexia for the first time meant Leslie could make sense of his school years and understand why he left the traditional education system with very few qualifications. For Leslie, this extra support is what makes Birkbeck so special. He recalls: “You might have dyslexia, or you might have childcare to deal with. Birkbeck however lives in the real world, not just the academic world. It is trying to help you at every junction to succeed.” 

Leslie’s career continues to flourish, and it will be fascinating to see where his journey will take him next.