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Prof. David Getsy, PhD

David Getsy

John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies

Terra Visiting Professor

Lansstr. 7-9
Raum 316
14195 Berlin


Aufgrund der COVID-19 Maßnahmen der FU-Berlin finden derzeit keine persönlichen Sprechstunden statt; die Lehrenden stehen per Email für Rückfragen zur Verfügung.

Concurrent Position

Goldabelle McComb Distinguished Professor of Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Ph.D., Art History, Northwestern University

M.A., Art History, Northwestern University

B.A. (Hons), Art History & Cultural Philosophy, Oberlin College

Awards and Fellowships (selected)

Dedalus Foundation Senior Fellowship

Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, School of English and Drama, Queen Mary University of London

Honorary Visiting Professor of History of Art, University of York

2015, 2018
Research Grant, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

Clark Fellowship, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellowship, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, U.S. National Gallery of Art

Research Fellowship, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and Center for Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies, University of California Los Angeles

J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship, Getty Foundation, 2004-2005 (in residence at Harvard University, Department of History of Art and Architecture)

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, Leslie Center for the Humanities, Dartmouth College

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2002

Samuel H. Kress Foundation Fellowship in the History of Art, held at Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London

Other Professional Experience

2018-2019: Interim Director, Master of Fine Arts Program (Low-Residency), School of the Art Institute of Chicago

2015-2016: Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

2013-2015: Chair, Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

2013-2015: Chair of the Editorial Board, The Art Bulletin

2019-present: Board of Directors, Fire Island Artist Residency

2018-present: Board of Directors, OTV: Open Television

2017-present: Board of Directors, Historians of British Art

Academic Memberships

College Art Association

Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present

Association of Historians of American Art

Queer Caucus for Art

Courses Summer Term 2021: 

Queer History of American Art, 1950s to 1990s (BA course) 

In the wake of the Second World War, demographic shifts fostered new concentrations of lesbian, gay, and otherwise non-heterosexual people in U.S. cities starting in the 1950s. Visual art that addressed these increasingly visible communities began to flourish in these decades, and this course will track the shifts in the queer production of art during this time. We will examine the transition from highly coded and covert registrations of queer lives in the 1950s to the forthrightness and activism that emerged after the Stonewall uprising in 1969 to the rage of the 1980s spurred by government inaction on the AIDS crisis. The course will be structured around case studies that examine changing attitudes toward the politics of visibility, the question of assimilation, the need for radical refusal, and the disruption of norms and naturalized roles. Throughout, our examinations will be focused on larger questions for the history and historiography of U.S. art, including the erasure of non-white subjects from queer art historical narratives, the appropriation of transgender histories by queer art and politics, and the continuing institutional censorship of queer art.

American Art and Transgender History (MA course)

This graduate seminar in theory and methodology will ask what transgender studies and art history have to say to each other. The seminar will introduce transgender studies and examine the ways in which the discipline of art history can contribute to its debates about form, the status of the human figure, the legibility of bodies, and the visualization of complex and successive states. Our primary focus will be on how transgender studies compels us to read and write U.S. art history differently. Our topics will include work by transgender cultural producers and artists, but we will also examine the ways in which transgender and nonbinary methods can be used to look at canonical, mainstream, and ostensibly non-trans topics in a new and more accurate light. While there will be case studies from contemporary art, the majority of the seminar will be focused on the methods that can be used to write new historical narratives of nineteenth- and twentieth-century in U.S. art history. This is a reading-intensive, theoretically-focused graduate seminar in which students are expected to produce original scholarly research.

Courses Winter Term 2020/2021:

Objects, Agents, and Audiences: Sculpture and its Expansions in the United States from the 1950s to 1990s (BA Course)

The second half of the twentieth century saw a fundamental reorganization of the medium of sculpture, and this course will chart its major developments. From the 1950s onward, sculptors in the United States became preoccupied with their work’s relationship to everyday objects, industrial products, mass consumer goods, and the human body. Sculptural representation was left behind as abstraction, assemblage, objecthood, and dematerialization took hold, and we will examine sculptors’ restless attempts at greater degrees of relation to everyday things, institutional contexts, and human bodies. Artists were energized by how sculpture could expansively incorporate architecture, performance, and the lived body; but they also prophesied its disintegration and obsolescence. Pushed to its limits, sculpture came to occupy a central role in American art theory, and it became an analogy for debates about gender, power, history, and commodification. This course will examine the ways in which these contestations of the sculptural object registered important cultural and intellectual shifts in American art and culture across these decades.

Street Actions: Public Performance Art and the City of New York in the 1970s and 1980s (MA Course)

This seminar will examine how New York City's urban spaces enabled the proliferation of performance art in the 1970s and 1980s. The tumultuous shifts in the economic landscape of New York City facilitated new modes of non-commercial artistic practices that turned away from the commodified object and toward performance, event, and action. We will study the ways in which artists created disruptive public tactics, urban interventions, infiltrations of institutions, and public protests. Emphasis will be placed on performance art at public sites, often unauthorized and unsanctioned. A central question will be how artists actively sought unexpecting audiences and new locations for performance in order to contest mainstream narratives of race, sexuality, and/or gender. Case studies will include Adrian Piper, Scott Burton, Betsy Damon, Tehching Hsieh, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Stephen Varble, Pope.L, Papo Colo, Tseng Kwong Chi, Lorraine O’Grady, and ACT UP. From eroticism to activism, performance art interacted with the city’s urban geography, contested zones, and infrastructure. We will examine how performance artists in these decades made the street the stage and confronted new audiences.

Research interests

Queer Studies; Transgender Studies; Art and performance in the U.S. since 1950; Nineteenth-century British and French art; Sculpture Studies; Performance Studies; Game Studies

Current projects

Queer Behavior: Scott Burton’s Performances of the 1970s (forthcoming)

Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble in 1970s New York

Performance in the Proximity of Stonewall, 1968-1973

Public talks in 2020-2021

  • “Viral Sites: Scott Burton’s Sculpture, Undetectability, and Public Art in the First Decade of the AIDS Crisis,” John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität, Berlin, January 2021
  • “Reduction as Expansion: The Queer Capacities of Abstract Art,” Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, 7 December 2020
  • “Genitals and Other Accessories: Genderqueer Exposure in Stephen Varble’s Costume Performances in 1975,” for “Ambivalent Work*s: Queer Perspectives and Art History,” Kunsthistorisches Institut, Universtät Zürich, 4-5 December 2020
  • “Enduring Out: Geoffrey Hendricks’s Ring Piece and the Ambivalence of Queer Visibility in 1971,” Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 24 September 2020

Selected recent lectures before 2020-2021

  • “At Home with Ethel Dull: Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, 1960s Street Culture, and Queer Value,” College Art Association 108th Annual Conference, Chicago, 13 February 2020
  • “The Possibility of Queer Abstraction,” Des Moines Art Institute, 6 June 2019
  • Participant and moderator, “Considering Forms: Transgender and Genderqueer Artistic Strategies,” Future Genders, the 2018 Max Wasserman Forum on Contemporary Art, The MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, 10 November 2018
  • “Stephen Varble’s Journey to the Sun,” Museum of Modern Art, 29 October 2018
  • Co-convenor (with Ricardo Montez), “Queer New York and Urban Performance” symposium, Department of Performance Studies, New York University, 19 October 2018
  • “‘After all, isn’t America’s garbage the most valuable in the world?’: Stephen Varble’s Gutter Art in 1970s New York,” Swiss Institute, New York, 5 July 2018
  • Roz Perry Memorial Lecture, Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Exhibiting intimacy: Rodin, sex, and modern sculpture,” 17 November 2017, Rodin Centenary Lecture for the Rodin Museum

Exhibitions curated

Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble (retrospective)
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, 29 September 2018–27 January 2019

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day
Originated at ONE Archives Foundation Gallery & Museum, West Hollywood, California (1 March–17 May 2019) and traveled to The Horse Hospital, London (26 October–15 November 2019) and scheduled for Iceberg Projects, Chicago (March 2021)

Stephen Varble: An Antidote to Nature’s Ruin on this Heavenly Globe, Prints and Video from the Early 1980s
Institute 193, Lexington, Kentucky, 20 October–1 December 2018

Jared Buckhiester: Love Me Tender
Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, New York, 15 September–12 November 2017


  • Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015)
  • Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010)
  • Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2004) 

Edited books

  • Queer, Whitechapel Gallery Documents of Contemporary Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, February 2016)
  • Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965–1975 (Chicago: Soberscove Press, 2012)
  • From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011)
  • Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c.1880–1930 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004)

Edited special issue of peer-review journals

  • (Co-editor with Julian B. Carter and Trish Salah) “Trans Cultural Production,” special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1, no. 4 (November 2014).

Articles and essays (selected, since 2013 only)

  • “Outing Queer Fluxus: Geoffrey Hendricks in Conversation with David J. Getsy,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art (forthcoming Winter 2020).
  • “Unrequited Love: The Melodrama of Adam Milner’s Illegitimate Affections at the Clyfford Still Museum,” in Adam Milner, Museum of the Invisible Woman and Other Essays and Actions (Denver: Clyfford Still Museum, forthcoming December 2020).
  • “Multiple Exposures: Sean Fader’s #wishingpelt and Humor in Social Media Performance,” ASAP/Journal 5.3; special issue on “Humor,” ed. Jonathan Eburne (Fall 2020): 515-20.
  • “Lynda Benglis, Untitled (Beyond Barnett Newman), 1966-67,” in Matthew S. Witkovsky, ed., Material Meanings: Selections from the Constance R. Caplan Collection, exh. cat. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2020), 38-41.
  • "Ten Queer Theses on Abstraction," in Jared Ledesma, ed., Queer Abstraction (Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center, 2019), 65-75.
  • "Scott Burton, Two-Part Chair, 1986," in Jonathan Weinberg et al., eds., Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989, exh. cat. (Columbus: Columbus Museum of Art, 2019), 132-33.
  • "Queer Figurations in the Sculpture of Elmgreen & Dragset," in Leigh Arnold, ed., Elmgreen & Dragset: Sculpture (Dallas: Nasher Sculpture Center, 2019), 154-94.
  • “Intimacy, Unknowing, and Discovery: David Getsy in Conversation with Christina Quarles,” in Andrew Bonacina, ed., Christina Quarles, exh. cat. (Wakefield: Hepworth Wakefield, 2019), 31-40.
  • "Honcho," in Amelia Jones and Andy Campbell, eds., Queer Communion: Ron Athey (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2019), 330-32.
  • [interview] “A New Exhibition Resurrects One of New York’s Most Subversive Queer Performance Artists, David J. Getsy interviewed by Emily Colucci,” THEM magazine (3 October 2018, online at https://www.them.us/story/stephen-varble-exhibition )
  • "A Sight to Withhold: David J. Getsy on Cassils," Artforum (February 2018): 57-60.
  • "Abstract Bodies and Otherwise: A Conversation with Amelia Jones and David Getsy on Gender and Sexuality in the Writing of Art History," CAAreviews (posted 16 February 2018: http://www.caareviews.org/reviews/3426).
  • “Queer Intolerability and Its Attachments” [introduction to Queer, 2016] translated into Chinese for 數位荒原 [No Man’s Land] no.36 (March 2018).
  • Response to Alexander Nemerov's "Art is not the Archive," Archives of American Art Journal 57.2 (Fall 2018): 71-72.
  • "Queer Relations," in ASAP/Journal 2.2; special issue on "Queer Form," eds. Kadji Amin, Amber Jamilla Musser, and Roy Pérez (May 2017): 254-57.
  • "Slava Mogutin, Infiltrator," in Slava Mogutin, Bros & Brosephines (Brooklyn: powerHouse Books, 2017), 88-95.
  • "Exalting the Unremarkable: Van Gogh's Poet's Garden and Gauguin's Bedroom" in Gloria Groom, ed., Van Gogh's Bedrooms, exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), 36-49.
  • "Appearing Differently: Abstraction's Transgender and Queer Capacities," interview by William Simmons, in C. Erharter, D. Schwärzler, R. Sicar, and H. Scheirl, eds., Pink Labor on Golden Streets: Queer Art Practices (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2015), 38-55.
  • "The Image of Becoming: Cassils's Allegories of Transformation," Cassils, exh. cat. (Eindhoven: MU Eindhoven, 2015), 10-22.
  • "Catherine Opie, Portraiture, and the Decoy of the Iconographic," in Confronting the Abject, William & Stephanie Sick Distinguished Professorship Monograph Series, no. 3: Catherine Opie (Chicago: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2015), 15-37.
  • "Laying it Down: Heroic Reclining Men and Other Tactical Inversions," in Eugenie Tsai and Rujeko Hockley, eds., Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, exh. cat. (Brooklyn: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2015), 94-99.
  • "Acts of Stillness: Statues, Performativity, and Passive Resistance," Criticism 56.1 (2014):1-20.
  • "Capacity," in "Postposttransexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies," special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1.1-2 (May 2014): 47-49.
  • "Queer Exercises: Amber Hawk Swanson's Performances of Self-Realization," GLQ 19.4 (Fall 2013): 465-85.
  • "Queer Formalisms: Jennifer Doyle and David Getsy in Conversation," Art Journal 72.4 (Winter 2013): 58-71. Republished online by Art Journal Open at http://artjournal.collegeart.org/?p=4468


[for PDFs and complete list of publications, see http://davidgetsy.com]