2020 applicants

Dr Michael Tymkiw

Senior Lecturer
School of Philosophy and Art History
Dr Michael Tymkiw



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 specializes in modern and contemporary visual culture, with a particular interest in issues of spectatorship in relation to artworks and built environments. Michael's recent research has consisted of three main projects: 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. Reviews of this monograph have appeared in Critique d'Art, European History Quarterly, German Studies Review, the Journal of Curatorial Studies, the Journal of Design History, Leonardo Reviews, Modernism/Modernity, Monatshefte, Transbordeur, and elsewhere. The second project, 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 research. One is a series of articles about floor-based applied artworks from interwar Europe (e.g., a 2019 Art Bulletin essay about Fascist Italian pavement mosaics). The other strand focuses on works of fine art from the 1950s onward that were explicitly created to be stepped on by spectators. This strand of research, which is envisioned for a book entitled "Walking on Art, 1950s–Now," will consider works by an array of artists from the Americas, Asia, and Europe, including Carl Andre, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Hans Haacke, Yayoi Kusama, Cildo Meireles, Doris Salcedo, Shōzō Shimamoto, and Rudolf Stingel. This book project seeks to offer the first comprehensive account of the wider postwar phenomenon of walking on art, with a particular emphasis on the complex set of motivations that fueled the emergence and proliferation of “walkable art" across different makers, movements, and geographies. The final project, which reflects a new area of research for Michael, focuses on the intersection between digital technology and spectatorship in the context of museums and other sites of cultural heritage. Part of this research involves the use of eye-tracking technologies to study the relationship between museum display practices and normative viewing behavior, the subject of a 2020 article in Leonardo. Another part of this research centers on understanding and how virtual reality, chatbots, haptic technologies, and other digital tools are transforming spectatorship in museums, archaeological sites, and monuments today.


  • 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

  • Art, the Law and the Market (AR343)

  • Researching Art History (AR932)

  • Critique and Curating (AR941)

  • Individual Project (AR958)

  • Dissertation - MA Schemes (AR981)

  • Work-Based Project (AR982)

  • Dissertation: MBA Museum Management (AR983)

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

  • Dangerous Ideas: Essays and Manifestos as Social Criticism (CS305)

  • Dissertation: Philosophy and Art History (PY985)

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. and Foulsham, T., Eye Tracking, Spatial Biases, and Normative Spectatorship in Museums. Leonardo, 1-10

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., (2007). Debunking the myth of the saubere Wehrmacht (Verbrechen der Wehrmacht). WORD & IMAGE. 23 (4), 485-492

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 (3)

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


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6.129, Colchester Campus