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David Getsy

Eleanor Shea Professor of Art History
Fayerweather Hall 303 (on leave Spring 2024)


Ph.D. Northwestern University, 2002

M.A. Northwestern University, 1996

B.A. with Highest Honors, Oberlin College, 1995

Fields and Specialties:

Art and performance histories; queer studies; transgender studies; performance studies

David J. Getsy is a historian and curator of art and performance working at the intersection of art history, queer studies, and transgender studies. His research examines how non-normative genders and sexualities have been fundamental to the shape of art history’s narratives, and he has published widely on art in the United States and Europe from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

His current research focuses on queer and transgender performance and art in 1970s and 1980s New York City. This is the terrain of his newest book, Queer Behavior: Scott Burton and Performance Art (University of Chicago Press, 2022), which received the 2023 Robert Motherwell Book Award for outstanding publication in the history and criticism of modernism in the arts. Getsy is also at work on a book based on his retrospective exhibition Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble in 1970s New York (Leslie-Lohman Museum, NYC) and a related satellite exhibition, The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble, which originated at the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum in California before travelling to London, Chicago, and Berlin, where it closed in 2022 at the Schwules Museum. 

His earlier books include Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (Yale University Press, 2015; reissued in paperback in 2023), which was the first study to bridge art history and transgender studies, and the widely-read anthology of contemporary artists’ writings, Queer (MIT Press, 2016). His writings have been published in GLQ, TSQ, Art Bulletin, Art History, Art Journal, Artforum, Criticism, PAJ, ASAP/Journal, and numerous exhibition catalogues. He and his co-author Che Gossett received the College Art Association’s Award for Distinction honoring the most distinguished contribution to Art Journal in 2021 for their "Syllabus on Transgender and Nonbinary Methods for Art and Art History" in Art Journal 80.4 (Winter 2021). In 2023, he received an Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities from the University of Virginia.

Getsy received his B.A. with highest honors from Oberlin College and M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He came to the University of Virginia in 2021 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. 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. He is a member of the editorial board of American Art, the Publications Committee of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and has previously served as Chair of the Editorial Board of The Art Bulletin (2013–2015). He is currently on the boards of directors for OTV: Open Television and the Fire Island Artist Residency for emerging LGBTIQ artists and writers. At the University of Virginia, he is also an affiliated faculty member of the Department of American Studies and the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

Professor Getsy welcomes inquiries from prospective PhD students working in one or more of the areas in which he teaches and researches: modern and contemporary art, queer studies, transgender studies, sculpture studies, and performance studies.


Books, single-author

Edited volumes

  • Queer, Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series (MIT Press, 2016)
  • Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965–1975 (Soverscove Press, 2012)
  • From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art, Refiguring Modernism series (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011)
  • Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c.1880–1930 (Ashgate, 2004)
  • co-editor (with Julian B. Carter and Trish Salah), "Trans Cultural Production," special issue for the inaugural volume of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1.4 (2014).

Selected articles and recent essays

  • “Queer Possibilities: Lesbian Feminist Abstract Painting in the 1970s and After,” in Katy Siegel and Mark Godfrey, eds., Making Their Mark: Art by Women in the Shah Garg Collection (New York: Gregory R. Miller & Co, 2023), 70-79.
  • "The Spectacle of Privacy: Geoffrey Hendricks’s Ring Piece and the Ambivalence of Queer Visibility," The Art Bulletin 104.3 (September 2022): 117-45. [link to PDF]
  • "How to Teach Manet’s Olympia after Transgender Studies," Art History 45.2 (April 2022): 342-69. [open access link]
  • "Bricks and Jails: On Martin Wong’s Queer Fantasies," in Krist Gruijthuijsen and Agustin Pérez Rubio, Martin Wong—Malicious Mischief, exh. cat., KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (Berlin: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, 2022), 178-98. [link to PDF]
  • (co-authored with Che Gossett) "A Syllabus on Transgender and Nonbinary Methods for Art and Art History,"Art Journal 80.4 (Winter 2021): 100–115. Winner of the College Art Association’s Award for Distinction for best article published in Art Journal in 2021. [republished open access at Art Journal Open]
  • “Multiple Exposures: Sean Fader’s #wishingpelt and Humor in Social Media Performance,” ASAP/Journal, 5, no. 3, “The Humor Issue” (Fall 2020): 515-20.
  • "Ten Queer Theses on Abstraction," in Jared Ledesma, ed., Queer Abstraction (Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center, 2019), 65-75. [link to PDF]
  • "Queer Intolerability and its Attachments," introduction to Queer (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016) [link to PDF]
  • "Acts of Stillness: Statues, Performativity, and Passive Resistance," Criticism 56.1 (2014):1-20. [link to PDF]
  • "Capacity," in "Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies," special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1.1-2 (May 2014): 47-49. [link to PDF]
  • “Queer Exercises: Amber Hawk Swanson’s Performances of Self-Realization,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 19, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 465-85.
  • “Queer Formalisms: Jennifer Doyle and David Getsy in Conversation,” Art Journal 72, no. 4 (Winter 2013): 58-71. [peer-reviewed] Also online at

Courses Taught:

ARTH 2769: "Queer Histories of U.S. Art, 1950s to 1990s"

ARTH 4591: "Street Actions: Public Performance Art in New York City in the 1970s & 1980s"

Graduate seminars include "Queer Art History and Postwar America" and "Transgender Studies and American Art"