History of Art


Professor Mignon Nixon



a woman smiles at the camera

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

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: In person: Mondays 1.30-2.30 p.m., except on 6 November (Reading Week), or by appointment. Please email. 
Online: Please email for an appointment.
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

Caitrin Barrett-Donlon, 'Revisioning: Experimental Dance, Museums, and Yvonne Rainer'

Philomena Epps, 'Erotic Objects, Erogenous Zones: Fetishism and Sexual Difference, 1957-1984' 

Louis Shankar (co-supervised with Bob Mills), 'We are born into a preinvented existence': a psychoanalytic interrogation of the late art of David Wojnarowicz' 

Recently completed

Michael Green, "Thinking Back: Artistic Returns to H.D." (2022)

Ivan Knapp, “Meme-work: Psychoanalysis and the alt-right” (2021)

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


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.