History of Art


Professor Mignon Nixon



Professor Mignon Nixon

Mignon Nixon is Professor of History of Modern and Contemporary Art. She joined the History of Art Department at UCL in 2016. From 1996 to 2016, she was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and Professor of American Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. In 2015, she was Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge. Her work focuses on interactions of art with feminism, gender, and psychoanalysis and on questions of sexuality, peace, and war. She is a co-editor of October magazine.

Mignon’s current book project is Sperm Bomb: Art, Feminism, and the American War in Vietnam. Click here to learn about this project.

Mignon’s previous publications include Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art and October Files on Mary Kelly and Eva Hesse. Her research has been supported by the Getty Research Institute, the Clark Art Institute, the Terra Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is particularly interested in hearing from potential research students engaging with post-1960 art, psychoanalysis, and feminist and gender politics, and with questions of sexuality and peace.

Contact Details

Office: 20 Gordon Square, Room 403
Office hours: Mondays and Fridays 1.30-2.30pm (or by appointment). No office hours in the week of 16 January or on 27 January.
Phone: +44 (0)20 3108 4015 (internal 54015)
Email: mignon.nixon@ucl.ac.uk


Professor in History of Art

Dept of History of Art

Faculty of S&HS

Research Themes

Modern and contemporary art; questions of feminism, gender, sexuality and subjectivity; artistic resistance to militarism and war; psychoanalysis; violence; the politics of peace


Research Summary

Mignon's current research focuses on intersections of art, sex, war, and peace. Her present book project, Sperm Bomb: Art, Feminism, and the American War in Vietnam, explores the dynamic interaction between feminist thought and artistic resistance to war. She has lectured and published widely over the course of this research, which has been funded by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Clark Art Institute. This project also formed the focus of her residency as Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2015. Since beginning this long-term project, Mignon has supervised a number of doctoral students researching questions of war and peace in art and visual culture, analysed in the perspectives of feminism, sexuality, gender, and subjective theories of the group. She welcomes applications from prospective research students working in these areas, broadly construed.

Mignon is also a secondary supervisor in the UCL Psychoanalysis Unit and works in collaboration with the Unit to support students engaged in interdisciplinary study in visual culture and psychoanalysis. She welcomes applications from research students working across visual culture and psychoanalysis.

Mignon’s earlier publications include Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art (2005) and edited anthologies of writings on Mary Kelly (2016) and Eva Hesse (2002). She has also published extended critical essays on artists including Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Yayoi Kusama, Nancy Spero, Carolee Schneemann and Silvia Kolbowski, and on such topics as the psychoanalytic couch and transference.


Selected Publications

Mary Kelly (MIT Press/October Books, 2016).
Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art (MIT Press/October Books, 2005).
Eva Hesse (MIT Press/October Books, 2002).
The Duchamp Effect, co-editor with Martha Buskirk (MIT Press/October Books, 1996).

October 113 (Summer 2005), special section on psychoanalysis.

Louise Bourgeois special issue, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 22, no. 2 (1999). Guest editor.

 Feminist IssueS, special issue, October 71 (Winter 1995). Co-editor with Silvia Kolbowski.

“What’s Love Got to Do, Got to Do with It? Feminist Politics and America’s War in Vietnam,” Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975, ed. Melissa Ho (Washington, D.C. and Princeton, N.J.: Smithsonian American Art Museum in association with Princeton University Press, 2019,) pp. 325-347.

“Mary Kelly’s Mimus: Feminism’s Waves,” Mary Kelly October File, ed. Mignon Nixon (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2016), pp. 167-191.

"Schneemann's Personal Politics," in Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting, ed. Sabine Breitwieser and Branden Joseph (Prestel, 2015), pp. 44-53.

"Minimal Difference: On Siblings, Sex and Violence," in Juliet Mitchell and the Lateral Axis: Twenty-First Century Psychoanalysis and Feminism, ed. Robbie Duschinsky and Sue Walker (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

"Infinity Politics," in Yayoi Kusama, ed. Frances Morris (London: Tate Publishing, 2012), pp. 176-185.

"L," in Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed, ed. Philip Larratt-Smith (London: Robert Violette, 2012).

"Book of Tongues," in Nancy Spero: Dissidances. Barcelona and Madrid: Museo d'Art Contemporáni and Museo National Centro de Art Reina Sofia, 2008, pp. 21-53.

"Reconstructing the Past: Louise Bourgeois and Psychoanalysis," Louise Bourgeois (London: Tate Publishing, 2007), pp. 228-233.

"The She Fox: Transference and the 'Woman Artist," in Women Artists at the Millennium, ed. Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press/October Books, 2006), pp. 275-303.

"'Child Drawing,'" in Eva Hesse Drawing, ed. Catherine de Zegher (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 27-56.

“’Why Freud?’ Psychoanalysis and FeminismPost-Partum Document, and the History Group,” Psychoanalysis and Culture, special issue edited by Lynne Layton (Palgrave, 2015).
Louise Lawler: No Drones,” October 147 (Winter 2014), pp. 20-37.

“Anatomic Explosion on Wall Street,” October 142 (Fall 2012), pp. 3-25. Available on JStor.
Spero’s Curses,” October 122 (Fall 2007), pp. 3-30.

“War Inside/War Outside: Feminist Critiques and the Politics of Psychoanalysis,” Texte zur Kunst, vol. 17, no. 68 (December 2007), pp. 65-75, pp. 134-138.

“o + x,” October 119 (Winter 2007), pp. 6-20.

“Dream Dust,” October 116 (Spring 2006), pp. 63-86.

“On the Couch,” October 113 (Summer 2005), pp. 39-76. Reprinted in Photography and the Optical Unconscious, ed. Shawn Michelle Smith and Sharon Slowinki (Duke University Press, 2017).

“Eva Hesse Retrospective: A Note on Milieu,” October 104 (Spring 2003), pp. 149-156.

“Posing the Phallus,” October 92 (Spring 2000), pp. 99-127.

“Eating Words,” Oxford Art Journal, Louise Bourgeois special issue, vol. 22, no. 2 (1999), pp. 55-70.

“After Images,” October 83 (Winter 1998), pp. 115-30.

“Bad Enough Mother,” October 71 (Winter 1995), pp. 71-92; reprinted in October: The Second Decade (Cambridge: Mass: MIT Press, 1997); translated in Divan: A Journal of Psychoanalysis and Culture (Stockholm, 1999).

“’You Thrive on Mistaken Identity,’” (on Barbara Kruger), October 60 (Spring 1992), pp. 59-81.

Teaching and Supervision

Mignon offers BA and MA modules in the History of Art Department. These include “Feminism and Visuality,” “Questions of Feminism,” and “Psycho” (BA) and “On Sex and Violence” (MA).

Mignon has supervised doctoral research in history of art in the University of London since 1999. At UCL, she is particularly interested in supervising topics concerned with feminism, gender and sexuality, and with anti-militarism and the politics of peace. Proposals involving psychoanalysis are especially welcome.

Current Doctoral Supervision

Ivan Knapp, “Meme-work: Psychoanalysis and the alt-right’s unsafe spaces”

Elizabeth Went, “Death Becomes Us: The Intersubjective Politics of Mourning in Contemporary Art Practices of the Colonial Americas”

Michael Green, “Thinking Back: Artistic Returns to H.D.”

Meret Kaufmann, “(K)not a symptom: on Rosemarie Trockel, Drawing, and Psychoanalysis”

Recently completed
Levi Prombaum, “’Disagreeable Mirror Though One May Be’: Portraits of James Baldwin, 1945-65” (UCL, 2019)

Theodore Gordon, "Sex and Violence: A New Psychoanalysis of Art of the American AIDS Crisis” (Courtauld Institute of Art, 2018)

Edwin Coomasaru, “Contested Bodies: Northern Irish Masculinities and the Legacy of the ‘Troubles’ in Visual Culture” (Courtauld Institute of Art, 2018)

Past (Courtauld Institute of Art, 2003-2015)

Henrietta Stanford, "Affective Afterlives: Encountering Ulrike Meinhof in Yvonne Rainer's Journeys from Berlin/ 1971 (1980), Gerhard Richter's October 18, 1977 (1988) and Silvia Kolbowski's A Few Howls Again? (2010)," 2015

Ana Balona de Sa' Oliveira, "Fort/Da: Unhomely and Hybrid Displacements in the Work of Ângela Ferreira, c. 1980-2010," 2012

Meredith Brown, "A History of the AIR Gallery, New York: Feminism and the Art Institution," 2012

Shir Aloni, "Brushstrokes: The Use of Hair in the Work of Contemporary Women Artists," 2012

Kate Random Love, "The Adolescent Condition: A Report on Postmodernism," 2010

Kathleen Campagnolo, "The Art of Walter De Maria, 1960-1971," 2009

Kristin Patterson, "Framing Reception: The Biographical Discourses of Hesse and Mendieta," 2009

James Boaden, "The Avant-Garde as Swain? The Perpetually Outmoded and the Pastoral Attitude in the United States, 1950-1965," 2009

Dominic Johnson, "Touching the Dead: Performance, Testimony, Writing and Death" (on Jack Smith), 2007

Judith Batalion, "Women's Collaborations in the Visual Arts (US, UK, Canada, 1970-2003)," 2007

Catherine Grant, "Queer Bodies/Queer Looks: Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Photographic Portraits," 2006

Antony Hudek, "Invisible Painting: Mimetic Pictorialism in Postmodern New York, 1977-1987," 2006

Ruth Rosengarten, "Narrating the Family Romance: Passion and Power in the Work of Paula Rego, 1990-2001," 2006

Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski, "Confinement and Illusions of Freedom: The Dialogue between Polish and American Conceptual Art," 2005

Anna Lovatt, "Seriality and Systematic Thought in Drawing, 1966-1976," 2005

Anna Dezeuze, "The 'Do-It-Yourself Artwork': Spectator Participation and the Dematerialization of the Art Object, New York and Rio de Janiero, 1958-1967," 2003

Ph.D. supervision as co-supervisor, Courtauld Institute of Art

Adele Tan, "Embodying Eros, Ethics and Justice: Situating the Stakes of Performance Art and Its Challenges in China" (partly co-supervised with Dr Henry Zhao, SOAS, University of London), 2009

Karin Kyburz, "The Right to Indifference: Abstraction in the Work of Gego and Jesŭs Soto" (partly co-supervised with Dr Shulamith Behr), 2008

Paula Feldman, "Made to Order: American Minimal Art in the Netherlands, Late 1960s to early 1970s" (co-supervised with Christopher Green), 2005


Academic Background

Mignon Nixon has taught history of art in the University of London since 1996, when she was appointed Lecturer in American Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She became Professor at the Courtauld in 2006. She joined the History of Art department at UCL in January 2016. At UCL, she plans to pursue interdisciplinary research across histories and theories of art, gender studies and psychoanalysis.

Mignon has held research fellowships from the Getty Foundation (1999-2000), the Clark Art Institute (2006 and 2012) and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University (2010-11) and has been a senior scholar at the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Giverny (2007). She is the Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies in autumn 2015.

Mignon was educated at Harvard University (A.B. Visual and Environmental Studies, 1983), the School of Visual Arts, New York City (M.F.A. Sculpture, 1987) and City University of New York Graduate Center (Ph.D., history of art, 1997).

She is a co-editor of October, where many of her writings have also appeared. She has published extensively on later twentieth-century and contemporary art in the perspectives of feminism, psychoanalysis, and gender, including a critical study of the work of Louise Bourgeois (2005) and anthologies of critical writings on Eva Hesse (2002) and Mary Kelly (2016). Recent texts include essays on Louise Lawler, Yayoi Kusama, and Carolee Schneemann, and on the psychoanalytic writings of Juliet Mitchell.