Andrew Hamilton is a scholar of the art and architecture of the ancient and colonial Americas, specializing in the Andes. His work is invested in analyzing objects, how they were made, used, and eventually disused, in order to understand why they were created and what cultural meanings they bore. He is interested in artifacts of all media, but especially ones made from biological materials that trace the intersection of art history and natural history, including textiles. He is a practicing artist and frequently illustrates his own publications.
As Associate Curator of Arts of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago, Hamilton stewards the museum's collection of predominantly ancient American art. He seeks to grow collections of colonial Latin American art, arts of the Black Atlantic, Caribbean art, and contemporary Native American and Latinx art, among others, in order to present more inclusive and representative histories of art in this hemisphere. He is committed to building relationships with communities, artists, and makers throughout the Americas. As an art historian, curator, author, and artist, he is concerned with the ethical, social, and intellectual stakes of art history in the twenty-first century.
Hamilton’s first book, Scale & the Incas, was published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Although questions of form are fundamental to the study of art history, the issue of scale has been underexamined. This work analyzes the role of scale in Inca material culture, built environments, and worldviews, arguing that it was a central tenet of their intellectual tradition and a fundamental way they perceived and expressed meaning. Scale & the Incas includes over seventy hand-drawn and -painted color plates that depict the scales of nearly two hundred artifacts and archaeological sites alongside embedded scale markers, other objects, and silhouettes of hands and bodies.
He is presently writing his second book, The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Biography of a Royal Inca Tunic, which examines the most famous object of ancient Andean art, an intricately patterned tunic conserved at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. This project was recently supported by a fellowship from the Getty Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.