Alexander Sturgis

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Alexander Sturgis
Other namesXa Sturgis
The Great Xa
Alma materUniversity College, Oxford
Courtauld Institute of Art
Museum director
Years active1991 – present
Employer(s)National Gallery
Holburne Museum
Ashmolean Museum
TitleDirector of the Ashmolean Museum
PredecessorChristopher Brown

Alexander John Sturgis (born 6 November 1963) is a British art historian and museum curator. He is the current Director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. He was Director of the Holburne Museum in Bath from 2005 to September 2014.

Early life[edit]

Sturgis was born on 6 November 1963 in London, England.[1] He was educated at Marlborough College, an independent school in Marlborough, Wiltshire.[1] He studied history at University College, University of Oxford from 1982 to 1985. He graduated Bachelor of Arts (BA), which was later promoted to Master of Arts (MA).[2] He then undertook post-graduate study in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.[3] He completed his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in 1990.[2]


Sturgis worked at the National Gallery, an art museum in London, from 1991 to 2005.[3] Beginning his career in the education department,[2] he later served as exhibitions and programmes curator for six years, from 1999 to 2005.[4][5] In 2005, he was appointed Director of the Holburne Museum in Bath.[6] During his time at Holburne, he oversaw a renovation of the museum that included a £13 million extension.[7]

He moved to the City of Oxford for the beginning of the 2014/15 academic year to take up the appointment of Director of the University of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum on 1 October 2014.[4][8] He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford.[9]

His publications include Rebels and Martyrs: The Image of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century (2006) and Presence: Sculpture and the Portrait (2012).

Personal life[edit]

In his spare time, Sturgis is a magician under the name The Great Xa and once appeared on 1990s British TV programme The Word appearing to swallow sharp razor blades.[10][11][12][13]

Selected works[edit]

  • Sturgis, Alexander (1994). Magic in art: tricks, perspective, illusions. London: Belitha Press. ISBN 978-1855613577.
  • Sturgis, Alexander (1998). Faces. London: National Gallery Publications. ISBN 978-1857092226.
  • Sturgis, Alexander (2000). Telling time. London: National Gallery Company. ISBN 978-1857099058.
  • Sturgis, Alexander; Child, Lauren (2003). Dan's angel: a detective's guide to the language of painting. London: Frances Lincoln. ISBN 978-0711218857.
  • Sturgis, Alexander; Christiansen, Rupert; Oliver, Lois; Wilson, Michael (2006). Rebels and martyrs: the image of the artist in the nineteenth century. London: National Gallery Company. ISBN 978-1857093469.
  • Sturgis, Alexander (2009). Faces (2nd ed.). London: National Gallery Company. ISBN 978-1857094640.
  • Sturgis, Alexander (2012). Presence: the art of portrait sculpture. Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club. ISBN 978-1851496853.
  • Vestey, Joanna; Sturgis, Alexander; Roberts, Russell (2015). Custodians. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum Publications. ISBN 978-1854442970.


  1. ^ a b 'STURGIS, Dr Alexander John', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online end, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 May 2017
  2. ^ a b c "New Director of Ashmolean Museum appointed". University of Oxford. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Director of Holburne Museum to talk about its recent redevelopment". University news. University of Bath. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b "New director set to take over at Ashmolean Museum". Oxford Mail. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  5. ^ "New Director of Ashmolean Museum appointed". News and events. Ashmolean Museum. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Bath's Holburne Museum director is leaving for new role at the Ashmolean in Oxford". The Bath Chronicle. 23 January 2014. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  7. ^ "New role for Holburne Museum director at the Ashmolean". Western Daily Press. 24 January 2014. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Courtauld alumnus appointed as Director of Ashmolean Museum". News. The Courtauld Institute. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Dr Alexander Sturgis MA, PhD". Worcester College, Oxford. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  10. ^ Moore, Charles (25 January 2014). "The Spectator's Notes: George Osborne's personal recovery". The Spectator. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  11. ^ "The Great Xa's Holburne illusion". BD online. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  12. ^ "The life of a modern magician: Razor blades, ballet shoes and bumping into the Obamas". Country Life. 20 December 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  13. ^ The Great Xar - Swallowing Razor Blades THEWORD (Video). Retrieved 23 August 2022.
Cultural offices
Preceded by Director of the Ashmolean Museum
Succeeded by