May 26, 2021
Art History

David J. Getsy is an art historian, art writer, and curator whose research examines the changing investments in the human figure in American and European art from the nineteenth century to the present. Working at the intersection of art history, queer studies, and transgender studies, his writings have addressed the ways in which non-normative genders and sexualities have been fundamental to the shape of art history’s narratives.  His book Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (Yale University Press, 2015) was the first study to bridge art history and transgender studies, and he is also editor of the widely-read anthology of artists’ writings, Queer (MIT Press, 2016).  A specialist in the history of sculpture, Getsy is also the author of Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (Yale University Press, 2010) and Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905 (Yale University Press, 2004).  As editor, his other books include From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art (Penn State University Press, 2011); Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965–1975 (Soberscove, 2012); and Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c.1880–1930 (Ashgate, 2004). Getsy’s curatorial work includes the retrospective exhibition Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble (Leslie-Lohman Museum, New York City, 2018) and a related satellite exhibition that is traveling to its fourth venue, the Schwules Museum in Berlin, later in 2021.  In addition, Getsy writes about recent artistic practices that engage with queer and transgender themes, including artists such as Cassils, Elmgreen & Dragset, Kehinde Wiley, Christina Quarles, Yan Xing, Ernesto Pujol, and Carlos Motta. His writings on contemporary art have been published in Artforum, GLQ, TSQ, Criticism, PAJ, Art Journal, ASAP/Journal, and numerous exhibition catalogues. His newest book, Queer Behavior: Scott Burton and Performance Art, is forthcoming from University of Chicago Press in May 2022.

Getsy comes to the University of Virginia from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he taught from 2005 to 2021 and was the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History since 2011.  At SAIC, he also served as Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, Interim Director of the Low-Residency M.F.A. in Studio program, and Chair of the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.  He received SAIC’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, given annually to one full-time faculty member, in 2007 and the Jean Goldman Book Prize for best book published by a faculty member in 2015.

Getsy received his B.A. with honors from Oberlin College and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. His fellowships and awards include the 2019 Senior Fellowship from the Dedalus Foundation, an Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, a Clark Fellowship from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship from Dartmouth College, a Kress Foundation Fellowship at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and two research fellowships from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.  Internationally, he has been the 2020–2021 Terra Foundation Professor of American Art at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London, and an Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of History of Art at the University of York, United Kingdom.  In 2021, his lecture appearances include the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Institute for Cultural Inquiry Berlin, the University of Exeter, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Universität Zurich, the Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, the Zentrum für GegenwartsKunst at the Universität Graz, and the United Kingdom’s Association for Art History, for which he gave a keynote lecture at its annual conference. He also organized the 2021 symposium “Lives: Biography and Autobiography in New Writing on American Art” for the Freie Universität Berlin and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Getsy’s current research focuses on archive-based recoveries of queer performance art in 1970s New York City. In addition to his forthcoming book on Scott Burton’s performance art, he is currently working on two book projects: first, a monograph on Stephen Varble based on his curatorial research and, second, a book on performance art’s geographic and social proximities to the Stonewall uprising and the modern LGBT rights movement in the United States.