Public Lecture by Mignon Nixon

Each year since 2015, the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Research School Art History (OSK) have jointly supported a Visiting Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art. Previous Visiting Fellows were Briony Fer (2019), Sarat Maharaj (2018), Martha Rosler (2017), Claire Bishop (2016), and W.J.T. Mitchell (2015).

The 2021 Fellow was Professor Mignon Nixon (University College London). On Sunday the 30th of May she gave an online Public Lecture, titled What's Love Got to Do, Got to Do with It? Art, Feminism and Warring in America, followed by a conversation with Sophie Berrebi (University of Amsterdam) and Emma Harjadi Herman (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam).

What's Love Got to Do, Got to Do with It? Art, Feminism and Warring in America

In July 1968, a nude anti-war event orchestrated by artist Yayoi Kusama was reported by the United Press International with the headline: "All's Quiet on the Stock Market, but Wall Street 'Bares' Busy". The event, titled Anatomic Explosion on Wall Street, was one of a string of nude political protests Yayoi Kusama conducted across New York City throughout the 1968 presidential campaign, exhorting the candidates to end the war in Vietnam and renounce nuclear armaments. A few months later, in March of 1969, the avant-garde artist Yoko Ono and the musician John Lennon announced that they would marry and then celebrate their honeymoon in a hotel in Amsterdam. They invited the press to join them.

Staged at a moment of gender crisis in the anti-war movement, Kusama's Anatomic Explosions and Ono and Lennon's Bed-in for Peace put bodies "on the line" in new ways, demonstrating that gender politics was integral to the social process of ending the American war in Vietnam and thinking toward future peace. Revisiting these interventions in our own time of continual war, resurgent militarism, and hyperbolic, "toxic" masculinity, Mignon Nixon's lecture will consider them alongside works by other artists who have also asked: why is what we do in bed so important for what we do in war?


Mignon Nixon is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University College London and specialized in interactions of art with feminism, gender and on questions of sexuality, peace and war. Her essay "What's Love Got to Do, Got to Do with It? Feminist Politics and America's War in Vietnam" is part of Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975 (ed. Melissa Ho, 2019). Other publications include Sperm Bomb: Art, Feminism, and the American War in Vietnam, Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and October Files on Eva Hesse. Prior to her current position, Nixon was Professor of American Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and Visiting Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge. Her research has been supported by the Getty Research Institute, the Clark Art Institute, Terra Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Sophie Berrebi is a writer, art historian and exhibition curator, working as Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam. Her current and recent curatorial and scholarly research includes the topics of fashion and visual culture, postcolonial archives and art, photography and film in art. She received her PhD in 2003 from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London on artist Jean Dubuffet and her research received various grants and fellowships over the years. Publications include the awarded Dubuffet and the City: People, Place and Urban Space (2018) and The Shape of Evidence, Contemporary art and the document (2015).

Emma Harjadi Herman is Head of Education and Inclusion at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Before joining the Stedelijk Museum in 2020 she was project leader at Mama Cash, an organization that supports women, girls, trans people and intersex people who fight for their rights. She is a Supervisory Board member at Atria, institute on gender equality and women's history, and a Senior Fellow at Humanity in Action, an international educational non-profit organization and part f a collaborative learning community in Europe and the United States.


  • This Public Lecture, followed by a live conversation, took place on Sunday 30 May 2021
  • The lecture by Prof. Mignon Nixon (45 min.) is available at this link

Photo: Nico Koster, Portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969, Amsterdam