Dr Michael Tymkiw

Senior Lecturer
School of Philosophy and Art History
Dr Michael Tymkiw
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 872606

  • Location

    6.129, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Mondays 17-18h, Tuesday 12–13h (please email beforehand for an appointment)



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. Michael specialises in modern and contemporary visual culture, with a particular interest in issues of spectatorship. Michael’s 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 roughly 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 Eileen Gray. Another strand focuses on works of fine art from the 1950s onward that were explicitly created to be stepped on by spectators--the topic of a current book project entitled "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 fuelled 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. Part of this research has involved collaborative, experiment-based projects with scholars from other disciplines: for example, an eye-tracking study about the relationship between museum display practices and viewing behaviour (discussed in a 2020 article for Leonardo), or a project currently underway that analyses how sound impacts a spectator’s responses to artworks in virtual exhibits. Another part of this research consists of a book project, "Alt-Right Digital Aesthetics," which explores the aesthetic strategies of the American alt-right in different forms of digital culture, including memes, electronic music, and video games.


  • 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

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

  • Collect, Curate, Display: A Short History of the Museum (AR117)

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

  • Practical Skills for Curatorial Work (AR912)

  • Critique and Curating (AR941)

  • Preparing for your Professional Placement (AR946)

  • Exhibition and Portfolio (AR952)

  • Exhibition (Joint Project) (AR953)

  • Heritage and Human Rights (AR959)

  • Final Project: Writing Art History (AR980)

  • Dissertation - MA Schemes (AR981)

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

Previous supervision

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 (7)

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

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


6.129, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Mondays 17-18h, Tuesday 12–13h (please email beforehand for an appointment)