Dr Michael Tymkiw

Reader (R)
School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies
Dr Michael Tymkiw
  • Email

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    +44 (0) 1206 872606

  • Location

    6.131, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    by appointment (please email)



Michael received a BA from Yale University and a PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago, where he also completed an MBA. Before coming to Essex, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz--Max Planck Institut. He is currently Field Editor for Twentieth-Century Art at and a member of the Conference Committee for the Association of Art History. Michael specializes in modern and contemporary visual culture, with a particular interest in issues of spectatorship. His recent work has focused on three areas of research: The first is a book about Nazi exhibition design and modernism, which was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2018. This project considers how Nazi exhibition design served as a surprising field of formal experimentation for artists, architects, designers, and government officials to draw upon and reconfigure key practices and principles associated with modernism. A key motivation behind such experimentation, this book argues, was the interest in provoking "engaged spectatorship"--attempts to elicit experiences among exhibition-goers that would pique their desire to become involved in wider processes of social and political change. A second area of research, which builds on Michael's interest in spectatorship but moves to forms of visual culture beyond exhibition spaces, investigates the phenomenon of walking on art from the 1920s through the present. This project involves two strands of work. One considers floor-based applied art from interwar Europe, such as Fascist Italian pavement mosaics (the subject of a 2019 Art Bulletin essay) and the rugs of the Brazilian-born, Paris-based designer Ivan Da Silva Bruhns (the topic of a forthcoming essay in West 86th). Another strand focuses on ground-based works of fine art created from the 1950s onward in Asia, the Americas, and Europe--the theme of a current book project provisionally titled "Walking on Art, 1950s–Now." This book seeks to provide the first comprehensive account of the wider postwar phenomenon of walking on art in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, with an emphasis on tracing the complex set of motivations that fueled the emergence and proliferation of "walkable art" across different makers, movements, and geographies. A final area of research examines intersections between digital technologies and spectatorship. One example of this research is a series of eye-tracking experiments about the relationship between museum display practices and normative viewing behavior, the findings of which were summarized in a 2020 Leonardo article. Another example is an ongoing project that analyzes how soundscapes shape a spectator's experiences of art and artifacts in virtual and physical exhibition spaces, and how soundscapes may ultimately be used to spur critical thinking among spectators within such sites.


  • PhD, Art History University of Chicago,

  • MBA (with honors) University of Chicago,

  • BA (cum laude), French Yale University,

Research and professional activities

Research interests


Open to supervise

Histories of modernism

Open to supervise

Exhibition design and curation

Open to supervise

The relationship between art and politics

Open to supervise

The use of digital technologies in museums and galleries

Open to supervise

Intersections between pre-modern and modern art

Open to supervise

Conferences and presentations

Walking on (and around) Doris Salcedo’s Floor-Based Artworks

Works on the Floor Symposium, 16/12/2022

Calling All Robotized Pedestrians! Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Painted Walkways in Mid-1970s Caracas

Association for Art History, 17/4/2021

Engaged Spectatorship: The Stakes of Modern Exhibition Design under National Socialism

Invited presentation, Jena, Germany, 29/5/2019

Otto Andreas Schreiber, Modernism, and Mass-Produced Exhibitions

Invited presentation, Unbewältigt? Ästhetische Moderne und Nationalsozialismus: Kunst, Kunsthandel, Ausstellungspraxis, Berlin, Germany, 17/5/2019

Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism

Invited presentation, London, United Kingdom, 29/8/2018

Stepping on Carpets by Eileen Gray

Invited presentation, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 9/5/2018

Paper: "Nazi Exhibition Design and the Spectre of the Avant-Garde," Dictators and Degenerates: Modernism, Fascism, and the Pursuit of Culture (University College Dublin, Sept 2017)

Dictators and Degenerates: Modernism, Fascism, and the Pursuit of Culture, Dublin, Ireland, 2017

Paper: "Rethinking the Canon of Modern Exhibition Design: The Laboratory Period and National Socialism," Modernist Studies Association Annual Conference (Aug 2017)

Modernist Studies Association Annual Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2017

Session co-chair: "The Return of History: Reconstructing Art Exhibitions in the 21st Century," Association of Art Historians Annual Conference (April 2016)

Association of Art Historians Annual Conference, Glasgow, United Kingdom, 2016

Paper: "Digitally Reactivating Museums for Expanded Disability Access," College Art Association Annual Conference (Feb 2016)

College Art Association Annual Conference, Washington D.C., United States, 2016

Paper: "Center / Periphery: The Relationship between Museums and Non-Museum Exhibitions," Museums under National Socialism (Deutsches Historisches Museum, June 2013)

Museums under National Socialism, Berlin, Germany, 2013

Paper: "Abstraction as Ornament: Visualizing Volksgemeinschaft," College Art Association Annual Conference (Feb 2013)

College Art Association Annual Conference, New York, United States, 2013

Paper: "Photomontage in German Propaganda Exhibitions (1928-1942)," German Studies Association Annual Conference (Oct 2012)

German Studies Association Annual Conference, Portland, United States, 2012

Paper: "National Socialist Factory Exhibitions: Making, Consuming, Gendering," Exhibiting Industry (Université de Lausanne, June 2012)

Exhibiting Industry, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2012

Paper: "The Worker as Artist: National Socialist Factory Exhibitions during Wartime," Association of Art Historians Annual Conference (April 2011)

Association of Art Historians Annual Conference, Loughborough, United Kingdom, 2011

Paper: "Debunking the Myth of the Unsullied Wehrmacht," Word and Image: Visual Dialogues (University of Pennsylvania, Feb 2006)

Word and Image: Visual Dialogues, Philadelphia, United States, 2006

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Becoming Modern: European Art From Futurism to Surrealism (AR217)

  • Art, the Law and the Market (AR343)

  • Inventing the Future: Early Contemporary 1945-1980 (AR346)

  • Collecting Art From Latin America (AR915)

  • Critique and Curating (AR941)

  • Individual Project (AR958)

  • Dangerous Ideas: Essays and Manifestos as Social Criticism Capstone (CS301)

  • Exhibition (Joint Project) (AR953)

Previous supervision

Theodore William Price
Theodore William Price
Thesis title: Emergency Images: The Cobr Committee and the Visual Culture of Emergency Politics.
Degree subject: Curating
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 7/12/2022
Biung Ismahasan
Biung Ismahasan
Thesis title: Indigenous Relational Space and Performance: Curating Together Towards Sovereignty in Taiwan and Beyond
Degree subject: Curating
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 4/11/2021
Ana Cecilia Varas Ibarra
Ana Cecilia Varas Ibarra
Thesis title: Overcoming the State of Oblivion: Decolonial Approaches Within Engaged Art Practices
Degree subject: Art History and Theory
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 22/5/2020
Sabina Gill
Sabina Gill
Thesis title: Exposing Wounds: Traces of Trauma in Post-War Polish Photography
Degree subject: Art History and Theory
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 11/7/2017


Journal articles (11)

Tymkiw, L., Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Ephemeral Painted Walkways and the Politics of Mobility in Mid-1970s Caracas. Oxford Art Journal

Tymkiw, L., Please Walk on This: Gutai and the Emergence of Walkable Art. Art History

Tymkiw, L. and Roman, A., (2022). In conversation with Cildo Meireles. Art Journal. 81 (3), 22-38

Al-Taie, I., Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, P., Tymkiw, M., Williams, D. and Daly, I., (2022). Sonic enhancement of virtual exhibits. PLoS One. 17 (8), e0269370-e0269370

Tymkiw, M., (2021). Planes of Immanence: Walking on Carl Andre’s Art in Moments of Protest. Art History. 44 (2), 226-254

Tymkiw, M. and Foulsham, T., (2020). Eye Tracking, Spatial Biases, and Normative Spectatorship in Museums. Leonardo. 53 (5), 542-546

Tymkiw, M., (2019). Floor Mosaics, Romanità, and Spectatorship: The Foro Mussolini’s Piazzale dell’Impero. The Art Bulletin. 101 (2), 109-132

Tymkiw, M., (2013). Art to the Worker! National Socialist Fabrikausstellungen, Slippery Household Goods and Volksgemeinschaft. Journal of Design History. 26 (4), 362-380

Tymkiw, M., (2007). Debunking the myth of the saubere Wehrmacht. Word & Image. 23 (4), 485-492

Martinez, JL. and Tymkiw, M., (2007). On the Need to Consume: An Interview with Manthia Diawara. Chicago Art Journal. 17, 112-127

Tymkiw, M., (2006). Word and Image / Resemblance and Similitude - René Magritte: The Key to Dreams. Chicago Art Journal. 16

Books (1)

Tymkiw, M., (2018). Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism. University of Minnesota Press. 978-1-5179-0057-1

Book chapters (4)

Tymkiw, L., (2020). The Mass Production of Factory Exhibitions in National Socialist Germany. In: Unmastered Past? Modernism in Nazi Germany Art, Art Trade, Curatorial Practice. Verbrecher Verlag. 212- 229. 395732453X. 9783957324535

Tymkiw, M., (2016). Engaged Spectatorship: On the Relationship between Non-Museum Exhibitions and Museums in National Socialist Germany. In: Museen im Nationalsozialismus: Akteure - Orte - Politik. Editors: Baensch, T., Kratz-Kessemeier, K. and Wimmer, D., . Böhlau. 161- 176. 978-3412224080

Tymkiw, M., (2015). Den Körper spielerisch erkunden. Die Ausstellung 'Wunder des Lebens' in Berlin 1935 und ihr Nachleben. In: "Erkenne Dich selbst!" Strategien der Sichtbarmachung des Körpers im 20. Jahrhundert. Editors: Nikolow, S., . Böhlau. 320- 342. 978-3-412-22380-9

Tymkiw, M., (2007). Pictorially Transcribing Music: The Wagner Lithographs of Henri Fantin-Latour and Odilon Redon. In: Looking and Listening in Nineteenth-Century France. Editors: Ward, M. and Leonard, A., . University of Chicago Press. 50- 59. 9780935573442

+44 (0) 1206 872606


6.131, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

by appointment (please email)

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