Christine Poggi

Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director; Professor of Fine Arts

University of California at Santa Cruz (BA); University of Chicago (MA); Yale (PhD)

Much of my research has focused on early twentieth-century European avant-gardes, the invention of collage and constructed sculpture, the rise of abstraction, and the relationship of art to emerging forms of labor, technology, and new media. I am also interested in the interplay of text and image, the representation of the crowd, and the engagement with theater and performance in modern art from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The issues taken up in my work on the early-twentieth century have often overflowed and expanded into related essays on contemporary art. In general, I prefer to think of the modern/contemporary period without fixed chronological or geographical boundaries and to see how issues or ideas may be elaborated or developed over time and across borders in new and surprising ways.  I find that my work on the early twentieth-century avant-gardes informs and enriches my perspective on contemporary art and vice versa.

My first book, In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage (Yale University Press, 1992), examines a key turning point in the history of modern art: the invention of collage by Picasso and Braque in 1912 and its early development in the work of the Cubists and Futurists. In this book, I interpret the mixed-media work and constructed sculpture of the Cubists and Futurists though various lenses, from close visual and material analysis, to a study of relevant social and political issues, including the role of mechanical reproduction and deskilled techniques, and the ways in which the inclusion of materials such as newspaper clippings and painted verbal fragments allowed the artists to respond to the First World War. One chapter, “Frames of Reference: Table and Tableau in Picasso’s Collages and Constructions,” (also published in the Art Journal in 1988), argues that the invention of collage constituted a destabilization of the work’s literal and figural grounds, so that the surface oscillates between horizontal still life table and vertical tableau, thereby challenging modernist views that collage reaffirms the flatness of the picture plane. This essay garnered considerable attention and has been the springboard for further work, including an essay titled "Picasso's First Constructed Sculpture: A Tale of Two Guitars," The Art Bulletin (2012), in which I attend to distinctions between the paper and sheet metal constructed guitars, and reconsider the modes of artistic (and industrial) labor involved in each work. Other essays carry a number of issues first addressed in In Defiance of Painting into the contemporary period, including the multiple uses of magazines and newspapers (often folded or crumpled rather than flat): "Inflexions of the Times: Newspaper in the Era of Art," in The Shock of the News (National Gallery of Art, 2012), and “Focus: Magazine Piece,” in Ian Wallace: At the Intersection of Painting and Photography (Vancouver Art Gallery, 2012).

My second book, Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism (Princeton University Press, 2008), highlights the strong undercurrent of anxiety and ambivalence in Futurist responses to the accelerating rhythms of daily life, the rising influence of the masses, mechanized labor, changing gender roles, and the destructiveness of war. Calling attention to F.T. Marinetti’s demand that the Futurists embrace “artificial optimism,” I focus on themes in which this artifice comes to the fore: the thrill and trauma of velocity, the psychology of urban crowds, the threat and promise of photography and film, the Futurist discourse on luxury and lust, and the fantasy of flesh fused with metal in the creation of a heroic, multiplied male. This book was awarded the Howard R. Marraro Prize from the Modern Language Association. I have occasionally returned to Futurist topics in subsequent work, including an essay on the leftist Futurist Ivo Pannaggi as a proletarian constructivist, the Futurist art of noise, and the meta-Futurist work of contemporary artist Luca Buvoli.

Recent work addresses Picasso’s drawing practice in 1913 as seen through an examination of his Céret sketchbook; Kazimir Malevich’s “zaum” (beyond-sense) portraiture in the context of the First World War; scenographic modes of address in Picasso’s mythological pictures and theatrical designs; and the many uses and political valences of the vortex in Giacomo Balla’s painting and drawings, from the Futurist period through Fascism.

Currently, I am working on a book that addresses the nexus of immigration, border crossing, mapping, and labor in contemporary performance, photography, and film. Titled On the Other Side: The Performance of Exile, Migration, and Labor in Contemporary Art, this book focuses on the work of Michelangelo Pistoletto, Tehching Hsieh, Chantal Akerman, Mona Hatoum, Santiago Sierra, and Christian Philipp Müller although other artists may be added. One essay has been published so far: “Mirroring the Law: Michelangelo Pistoletto, Tehching Hsieh, Santiago Sierra, and Chantal Akerman,” in Visualizing Law and Authority: Essays on Legal Aesthetics, ed. Leif Dahlberg (De Gruyter, 2012).

Prior to joining the Institute of Fine Arts in 2017 as the Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director, I taught at the University of Pennsylvania for thirty years. During that time I advised many Ph.D. and Master’s students, and held a secondary appointment in Italian Studies, Department of Romance Languages. I was also a member of the Comparative Literature and Literary Theory Graduate Group, and an affiliated member of the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department. During my tenure at Penn, I served as Director of the Art History Program at Reid Hall in Paris on two occasions, and taught in the summer Penn-in-Venice Program four times. I was always involved in Women’s and Gender studies, and from 2011 to 2014, served as the Director of the Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies Program and of the Alice Paul Center for the Study of Gender, Sexuality & Women. From 1996 to 2015, I was a member of the Committee on Modern and Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Beginning in 2016, I became a member of the Advisory Committee of the Barnes Foundation, and in fall 2018, will become Chair of the Program Committee.

Sample Courses

Lectures: The European Avant-Gardes: 1900 to 1945; Art Since 1945
Seminars: Cubism; Futurism The Russian Avant-Gardes: Image, Text, Performance, Film; Art History Methods; Twentieth-Century Theory and Criticism; The Art of the Sixties and Seventies; Andy Warhol and Pop Art; International Pop Art; Modernism Across Borders; Gender and Sexuality in Modern Art

Selected Publications


Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, Princeton University
Press, 2009. Awarded the MLA’s Howard R. Marraro Prize.

Futurism: An Anthology, ed. Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman,
Yale University Press, 2009. 

In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage, Yale University Press, 1992. Shortlisted for the Mitchell Prize.


Co-curated with Meredith Malone, Power Fields: Explorations in the Work of Vito Acconci. Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, February 15—March 31, 2008.

Collage and Montage in Twentieth-Century Art, Yale University Art Gallery, 1987.


“Cartographies of Crisis: Mona Hatoum’s Geopolitical Mappings,” in European Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies 7, ed. Kate Kangaslahti, Sascha Bru, Li Lin, David Ayers, and Iveta Slavkova (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022), in press.

“Trace and Metamorphosis in Picasso’s Drawings,” in Picasso: Seven Decades of Drawings, exh. cat. (New York: Acquavella Galleries/Rizzoli, 2021), 30-67.

“La couleur de mes rêves: Joan Miró’s Peinture-Poesie and the Art of False Resemblances,” in Miró Documents, Painting-Poetry / Peinture—Poésie, ed. Robert Lubar Messeri and Rémi Labrousse (Barcelona: Fundació Joan Miró, 2020), 33-51.

“Giacomo Balla’s Vortex: The Volatile Politics of an Abstract Form,” RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics 71-72 (spring/autumn 2019), 192-208.

“Stage at the Edge of the Sea: Picasso’s Scenographic Imagination,” The Art Bulletin 101, no. 1 (March 2019), 90-118.

“Malevich, the War, and the Crisis in Faciality,” in Edge: First World War and Culture,ed. Ekaterina Bobrinskaia (Moscow: State Institute for Art Studies, 2017), English, 175-186; Russian, 187-198. 

The Paradox of the Pictorial in Picasso’s Sculpture,” in Picasso. Sculptures, Musée Picasso, Paris, 2017, 1-10.      

“Cubist Equivalents: Picasso’s Céret Sketchbook of 1913,” in The Cubism Seminars, ed. Harry Cooper (Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art; Yale University Press, 2017),  224-251.

“Circa 1922: Art, Technology, and the Activated Beholder,” in 1922: Literature, Culture, Politics, ed. Jean-Michel Rabaté (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 104-127.

“Utopian Violence: El Lissitzky’s Victory Over the Sun,” in Mostly Modern: Essays in Art and Architecture, ed. Joseph Masheck (Stockbridge, MA: Hudson Hills Press, 2015), 18-36, notes 216-217.

All: Maurizio Cattelan’s Infernal Comedy,” CIS (California Italian Studies) 5, no.1, ed. Laura Wittman, Jon Snyder, and Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (2014), 248-284.

“Double Exposures: Picasso, Drawing, and the Masking of Gender, 1906-1908,” in Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection, ed. Emily Braun and Rebecca Rabinow (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014), 24-35, notes 296-297.

“Ivo Pannaggi: Meccano-Futurista, Constructivist, Proletarian,” in Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, ed. Vivien Greene, ex. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2014), 234-239.

"Picasso's First Constructed Sculpture: A Tale of Two Guitars," The Art Bulletin 94, no. 2 (2012), 274-298.

“Focus: Magazine Piece,” in Ian Wallace: At the Intersection of Painting and Photography, ed. Daina Augaitis, ex. cat. (Vancouver Art Gallery and Black Dog Press, 2012), 135-140.

"Inflexions of the Times: Newspaper in the Era of Art," in The Shock of the News, ed. Judith Brodie, ex. cat. (Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2012), 115-127.

“Mirroring the Law: Michelangelo Pistoletto, Tehching Hsieh, Santiago Sierra, and Chantal Akerman,” in Visualizing Law and Authority: Essays on Legal Aesthetics, ed. Leif Dahlberg (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012), 164-203.

“Cubist Faktura,” in Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment, 1910-1912, ed. Eik Kahng, ex. cat. (Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2011), 82-103.

"The Futurist Noise Machine," in "Future Imperfect: Italian Futurism Between Tradition and Modernization," The European Legacy, ed. Pierpaolo Antonello and Marja Härmänmaa (December 2009), 821-840; repr. “Der futuristiska bullermaskinen,” trans. Leif Dahlberg, in OEI (Stockholm), no. 47 (2010), 239-251.

"A Very Beautiful Day After Tomorrow: Christine Poggi Talks to Luca Buvoli about his 'Meta-Futurist' Project," Modern Painters (February 2009), 56-59.

“Mass, Pack, and Mob: Art in the Age of the Crowd,” in Crowds, ed.  Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Tiews (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 159-202, notes 402-407. Crowds was awarded the Modernist Studies Association’s prize as the best book in the field of studies of modernism and modernity published in 2006.

"Braque/Laurens: Les collages et constructions," in Braque/Laurens: Un dialogue, ed. Isabelle Monod-Fontaine and Sylvie Ramond, with Marielle Tabart, ex. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Paris: Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2005), 24-31.

"Picturing Madness in 1905: Giacomo Balla's The Madwoman and the Cycle The Living," RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 47 (2005), 38-68.
“Folla/Follia: Futurism and the Crowd,” Critical Inquiry 28, no. 3 (2002), 709-748.
“Following Acconci/Targetting Vision,” in Performing the Body/Performing the Text, ed. Amelia Jones and Andrew Stephenson (London: Routledge, 1999), 255-272; repr.  "Seguindo Acconci/Visão direcionada," Arte & Ensajos, no. 16, ed. Ana Cavalcanti and Maria Luisa Tavora, trans. Julie Pires and Marcos Bonisson (Rio de Janeiro, Programa de Pós-Graduaçao em Artes Visuais/Escola de Belas Artes, UFRJ, 2008), 158-171.

“The Paradox of the Futurist Woman,” in La Futurista: Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, ed. Lisa Panzera, ex. cat. (Philadelphia: Levy Gallery, Moore College of Art and Design, 1998), 14-21.

"Lacerba: Interventionist Art and Politics in Pre-World War I Italy," in Art and Journals on the Political Front, 1910-40, ed. Virginia Hagelstein Marquardt (University Press of Florida, 1997), 17-62.

"Dreams of Metallized Flesh: Futurism and the Masculine Body,” Modernism/Modernity 4, no. 3 (1997), 19-43.

"Vito Acconci's Bad Dream of Domesticity," in Not at Home: The Suppression of Domesticity in Modern Art and Architecture, ed. Christopher Reed (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996), 237-252, 290.

"Braque's Early Papiers Collés: The Certainties of Faux-Bois," in Picasso and Braque: A Symposium, ed. Lynn Zelevansky (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992), 129-149.

"La structure allégorique du collage de Picasso," in Actes du Colloque, Langage et modernité, ed. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, trans. Aline Elliot (Nouveau Musée, Villeurbanne, 1991), 21-48.    

"Frames of Reference: Table and Tableau in Picasso's Collages and Constructions," Art Journal 47, no. 4 (1988), 311-322. 
"Mallarmé, Picasso, and the Newspaper as Commodity," The Yale Journal of Criticism 1, no. 1 (1987), 133-151; repr. in Collage: Critical Views, ed. Katherine Hoffman (Ann Arbor, Michigan: U.M.I. Press, 1989), 171-192. 

Exhibition reviews

La Biennale di Venezia: All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor, Venice, Italy, in (May 18, 2016).

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Museum of Modern Art, New York, in (November 12, 2015).         

Book reviews

Karl Blossfeldt, Working Collages, ed. Ann and Jürgen Wilde, intro. Ulrike Meyer Stump (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), in Modernism/Modernity 10, no. 2
(2003), 398-400.

Jeffrey Weiss, The Popular Culture of Modern Art: Picasso, Duchamp, and Avant-Gardism (Yale University Press, 1994), in The American Historical Review (October 1996), 1222-1223.

Selected Honors

2010 The Howard R. Marraro Prize, Modern Language Association, for Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, Princeton University Press, 2009
2009 Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania
1988 Frances Blanshard Fellowship Fund Prize, Yale University, for the best dissertation of the year in the History of Art

Selected Grants and Fellowships

2016-2017 Faculty Fellow, Wolf Center for the Humanities, Forum on “Translation”
2007 Millard Meiss Publication Grant, College Art Association, for Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism
2004-05 Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellowship, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2003-04 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
2003 Dedalus Foundation Senior Fellowship
1998-99 American Association of University Women American Fellowship
1985-86 Georges Lurcy Fellowship, Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University
Fall 1984 Kress Foundation Travel Grant
1983-84 Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, France
1980-84 Full fellowship, Yale University
1979-80 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NEA Curatorial Fellowship