Skip to page Content.

Ara H. Merjian

Associate Professor of Italian , Art History ; Director of Undergraduate Studies

Ph.D. (History of Art) University of California, Berkeley; M.A., University of California, Berkeley; B.A., Yale University.

Office Address: 

Casa 406



Areas of Research/Interest: 

Twentieth-century Italian and French Art History and Theory; Futurism and the Italian avant-garde between the World Wars; Nietzschean philosophy and modernist aesthetics; early avant-garde film theory and history; Pasolini and post-war Italian aesthetics and politics.


Provost's Faculty Research Initiative, NYU; Millard Meiss/Mellon Author's Book Award, College Art Association; NYU Humanities Initiative, Full Year Faculty Research Fellowship; Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant Program (full book grant); Barbieri Endowment Grant in Modern Italian History, Trinity College; Lauro de Bosis Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University; Society of Fellows, Stanford University; Paul Mellon Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), National Gallery of Art; J. William Fulbright Scholar; Jacob K. Javits Fellow in the Humanities; Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Humanistic Studies; Fondazione Lemmerman Grant for Art and Archaeological Research.


Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris. Yale University Press, June 2014.

Heretical Aesthetics: Pier Paolo Pasolini Against the Avant-Garde. In progress.

Blueprints and Ruins: The Afterlifes of Giorgio de Chirico. In progress.

Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals

"Manifestations of the Novel: Genealogy and the Sculptural Imperative in F.T. Marinetti's Mafarka le futuriste," Modernism/Modernity, forthcoming 2015.

"'An Applied Physiology': Italian Modernism, Nietzschean Philosophy, and the Sexual Economy of Style," Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, forthcoming 2015.

"'Those ars all bellical': Luca Buvoli's Velocity Zero (2007-2009), Futurism, and a Post/Modernist Poetics of Aphasia," Word & Image, vol. 28, n. 2, Fall 2012.

"A Future by Design: Giacomo Balla and the Domestication of Transcendence," Oxford Art Journal, vol.35, n.2, Fall 2012.

“Discipline and Ridicule: Giorgio de Chirico, Le Corbusier, and the Politics of Space in Interwar Paris,” Grey Room (MIT Press), vol. 44, Summer 2011.

“From the Bottom of a Bag: Jean Cocteau’s Cul-de-Sac Criticism and the ‘Indirect Essay,’” Getty Research Journal, vol. 3, January 2011.

“Untimely Objects: Giorgio de Chirico’s The Evil Genius of a King (1914)  between the Antediluvian and the Post-human,” to Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, vol. 57/58, Spring-autumn 2010.

“An Older Future: Gabriel Alomar’s El Futurisme (1904),” Modernism/Modernity, April 2010.

“Il faut Méditerraniser la peinture: Giorgio de Chirico, Nietzsche, and ‘The Obscurity of Light,’” California Italian Studies, Special Issue, “Italy in the Mediterranean,” January 2010.

Co-editor, with Jennifer Scappettone, “Fascism, Gender, and Culture,” special issue of qui parle: Literature, Philosophy, Visual Arts, History, vol.13 no. 1, fall/winter 2001.

“Fascism, Gender, and Culture,” in qui parle: Literature, Philosophy, Visual Arts, History, vol.13 no. 1, fall/winter 2001.

“Gender, Historiography, and the Interpretation of Fascism: An Interview with Luisa Passerini,” in qui parle: Literature, Philosophy, Visual Arts, History, vol.13 no. 1, fall/winter 2001.

Articles in Non-Peer-Review Journals

"How World War One Gave Birth to the Modern,", October 31, 2014.

"Immense Museums of Strangeness: Giorgio de Chirico's Afterlifes," frieze Masters, October 2014.

"De Chirico's Longer American Shadow," Italian Journal, Quarterly magazine of the Italian Academy Foundation of New York, special issue on the Year of Italian Culture in the United States, Spring 2013.

"Mascots & Muses: On Warhol and Pasolini," frieze, May 2013.

"Pier Paolo Pasolini between Neorealism and Neo-avantgarde," GAM Magazine, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Turin, n.4, Summer 2011.

“Futurism at 100,” Special issue on the Centenary of Futurism, Modern Painters, February, 2009.

“Diminishing Returns,” Art and War: Five Years On, Special issue on Art and the Iraq War, Modern Painters, April 2008.

“Slow Burn: Wolfgang Paalen: Implicit Spaces,” Review essay, Papers of Surrealism, Issue 6, Winter 2008.

“‘Image Ridden’: Enigma Variations: Philip Guston and Giorgio de Chirico,” Review essay, Papers of Surrealism, Issue 5, Spring 2007.

“A Lost Manuscript on (and by?) de Chirico: Origins, Authorship, Implications,” Metafisica, Journal of the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, Rome, Italy, n. 5/6, 2006.

“Looking Past Guernica: Art Production and the Spanish Civil War,” Brandeis Review, Fall, 1998.

Chapters in Books

"Abstract or Concrete?: Munari's Work between the Wars," in Bruno Munari, ed. Pierpaolo Antonello, London: Peter Lang, forthcoming 2016.

"From Noucentisme to Novecento: The Sculptural Double between Spain and Italy," in Modernism and the Avant-garde Body in Spain and Italy, eds. Nicolás Fernández-Medina and Maria Truglio, London: Routledge, forthcoming 2016.

"Modernist Painting in and around Paris: The City as Site, Subject, and Structure, 1880-1939," in The Modernist World, eds. Stephen Ross and Allana C. Lindgren, Routledge, forthcoming 2015. 

"Guston’s Italian Badness,” in Philip Guston: The Late Work, eds. Martin Brody and Peter Miller, New York Review of Books Press, forthcoming 2014.

"Surrealism in a Second-hand Skirt: Dorothea Tanning’s (Femme) Fatala," in Surrealism and Same-sex Desire, eds. David Lomas, Charles Miller, and Joanna Pawlik, University of Manchester Press/Centre for the Study of Surrealism, forthcoming Winter 2014-2015.

"The Shroud of Bologna: Lighting up Pier Paolo Pasolini's Sensational Corpus," in Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice, ed. Sally Promey, Yale University Press, Summer 2014.

"A Screen for Projection: Ricciotto Canudo’s Exponential Aesthetics and the Parisian Avant-Gardes," in European Film Theory, ed. Temenuga Triofonova, London: Routledge, 2008.

"Middlebrow Modernism: Rudolf Arnheim at the Crossroads of Film Theory and the Psychology of Art" in The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory and Art History, ed. Angela Dalle Vacche, Rutgers University Press, 2003.

"'La tercera estética': Antonio Rodríguez Luna, la guerra civil, y la poética del testimonio," in Ensayos sobre Antonio Rodríguez Luna, eds. Javier Pérez Segura and Isabel García, Córdoba, Spain: Diputación de Córdoba, August 2003.

"La política del testimonio: Leon Golub y la serie Mercenarios, Interrogaciones, y Brigada Blanca," in Ensayos sobre Antonio Rodríguez Luna, eds. Javier Pérez Segura and Isabel García, Córdoba, Spain: Diputación de Córdoba, August 2003.

Major Translations

"Giorgio de Chirico" by Giovanni Loreto/Giorgio de Chirico (1921), translated from the French, in Grey Room 44, Summer 2011.

“Futurism” [“El futurisme”] by Gabriel Alomar (1904), translated from the Catalan, in Modernism/Modernity, vol. 17, n.2, April 2010.

Essays in Anthologies

"'That Arid Feeling for the Burnt Bush': Giorgio de Chirico's Wandering Jew, Metaphysical Painting and the 'Semitic Atavism,'" in Crossing cultures: conflict, migration and convergence: the proceedings of the 32nd International Congress in the  History of Art, Melbourne University Publishing, 2009.

Catalogue Essays

"Giorgio de Chirico's Semitic Primitivism: From The Jewish Angel to The Wandering Jew," in De Chirico a Ferrara: Pittura metafisica a avanguardie europee (De Chirico in Ferrara: Metaphysical Painting and the European Avant-Gardes), November 2015-March 2016.

"History + Distance x Mass - Memory: Taking the Measure of Francesco Arena's Practice," in Frac champagne-ardenne: Fonds gional d'art contemporain, October 2014.

"Bloody News from Friends: The Thickened Cinema of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi," in NON NON NON: The Work of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan, Spring 2012.

“Travesties, Transcodings, and Translations: or, The Emperor Wears Many Clothes,” Virtuoso Illusion: Cross-Dressing and the New Media Avant-Garde, List Center for Visual Arts, MIT, 2010

“David Schutter: The Repertory,” Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago, November 21, 2008 - January 3, 2009.

“‘Like a Messenger, to the Deep’: Leonora Carrington, Word and Image,” Leonora Carrington: The Talismanic Lens, Frey Norris Gallery, San Francisco, February 7 – March 30, 2008.

“Classicism Inverted,” Classicism Subverted: Gay Art in the Twenty-first Century, Paris, Studios Plat du Jour, April, 2005.

“The Architectonic Afterlives of Giorgio de Chirico,” in Architecture & Arts 1900 – 2004: A Century of Creative Projects in Building, Design, Cinema, Painting, Sculpture, Editore, 2 October 2004 - 13 January 2005, Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, Italy; ed. Germano Celant, Milan: Skira, 2005.

Encyclopedia and Catalogue Entries

"Wolfgang Paalen," in Masterworks of the Collection: Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, forthcoming 2015.

"Futurism in the United States," co-authored with Nicola Lucchi, in Handbook of International Futurism, ed. Günter Berghaus, Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, forthcoming 2015. 

"Seeing New York with Fornaro," in International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, ed. Günter Berghaus, Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, Spring 2014.

"Wardell Milan" and "Njideka Akunyili," in Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing, London: Phaidon, 2013.

"Noah Davis" and "Khalif Kelly," Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting, London: Phaidon, 2012.

“José Arrúe: Autoretrato” and “Juan Cabanas Erauskin: El Arquitecto Aizpurúa” in The Modern Portrait in Spain (1906-1936): Itineraries and Evolutions, Madrid: Fundación Santander Central Hispano, October 2007.

“Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism” Museum of Modern Art Exhibition (1936), and “John Wieners,” in Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact, ed. William T. Lawlor, ABC-CLIO publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, April 2005.

“Anton Giulio Bragaglia” and “Perspective,” in Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, London: Routledge, November 2005.

Selected Book Reviews

Inferno, by Dan Brown,, January 2014.

Grand Illusion: The Third Reich, the Paris Exposition, and the Cultural Deduction of France, by Karen Fiss (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Muralnomad: The Paradox of Wall Painting, Europe 1927-1957, by Romy Golan (Yale University Press, 2009), in Oxford Art Journal, Winter 2013. 

Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, by Robert Hughes,, March 2012.

Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi (Princeton, 2008), in The European Legacy (London: Routledge, 2009).

From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky, by Matthew Spender, Ararat Magazine, Fall 2000.

Selected Exhibition Reviews

"Robert Gober: The Heart is not a Metaphor," Museum of Modern Art, New York, frieze (commissioned), December 2014.

"Jeff Koons: A Retrospective," Whitney Museum of American Art, Apollo: The International Art Magazine (commissioned), September 2014.

"Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe," The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Artforum (commissioned), May 2014.

"The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976," Journal of Design History, eds. Alex Coles and Catharine Rossi, Sternberg Press, March 2014.

"Class Action: Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument," frieze, November 2013.

"The Thirties: The Arts in Italy Beyond Fascism," Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy, frieze, April 2013.

"The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York," Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Artforum (commissioned), May 2011.

"ACT UP New York," Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts/Harvard Art Museum, frieze, n. 129, March 2010.

"Live Forever: Marco Papa," Modern Painters, June 2009. 

"Italics: Italian Art Between Tradition and Revolution 1968-2008," Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Modern Painters, February 2009.

"Bodies of Evidence: The Films of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi at MoMA,”, February 2, 2009.

"Gloss and Dross: Gilbert & George at the M.H. De Young Museum,” Afterimage, May 2008.

"Photography and the Affects of Architecture: Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Centre Pompidou,” Review Essay, Special issue on Cities, Chicago Art Journal, vol. 15, fall 2005.

Sitting Twisted, Talking Straight, an original performance by Lory Tatoulian, Ararat Magazine, Fall 2002.

Selected Criticism

Artforum Online, Modern Painters, AfterImage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, Frieze, Art in America, various reviews, 2007-present.

Conferences Organized

Pier Paolo Pasolini: Political Vision, international symposium co-organized with Dr. Gerhard Wolf, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence/Max Planck Institute, Florence; Villa La Pietra, NYU in Florence and NYU/NYC, June/November 2015.

Abstraction and Totality, panel co-organized with Dr. Anthony White (Unversity of Melbourne), College Art Association, 101st Annual Conference, New York City, February 13-16, 2013.

Pasolini at MoMa, Critics' Roundtable, New York University, Casa Italiana, December 12, 2012.

25 Years of Thomas Crow's 'Painters and Public Life,' Mason Français, New York University, November 22, 2011.

The Future in Five Senses: Echoes of Italian Futurism in New York Architecture and Design. In conjunction with Performa 09, Casa Italiana/Department of Italian Studies, NYU, November 16, 2009.  Organized five interventions by architects, artists and urbanists on the afterlifes of Futurism in New York CIty design, architecture and urbanism.

The Measure of a Century: Futurism at 100.  The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University, April 17-18, 2009.  An interdisciplinary, international conference on the centenary of the Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, featuring presentations by leading scholars and critics in the field, artistic interventions, and film program at the Harvard Film Archive.

Selected Lectures by Invitation

"Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Problem of Abstraction," Rome Revisited: Rethinking Narratives in the Arts, 1948-1964, Research Seminars at the American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy, June 11-12, 2015.

"Pasolini's Abstraction," Keynote Speaker, The Legacy of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Yale University, March 6-7, 2015.

"Giorgio de Chirico's Scene of the Crime," Department of Italian at Pembroke College/Cambridge University, UK, October 16, 2014. 

"De Chirico's Willful Claustrophilia," Department of Art History at the University of Chicago, October 2, 2014 and Department of Art History at the University of London, UK, October 17, 2014.

"Fatalities: Giorgio de Chirico's War without Words," Plenary Speaker, The Myth of the Great War: An International Conference, Center for Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, April 24-25, 2014. 

"Painting in Chains: Giorgio de Chirico's Nietzschean Interiors," University of California, Berkeley, May 5, 2014. 

"A Body Full of Light: Pasolini's Irrational Spirituality," Keynote Lecture, "Devozione," Bi-annual Graduate Conference at Rutgers University, November 8-9, 2013.

"On Pasolini's La Rabbia," Museum of Modern Art, New York, January 8, 2013. 

"Pasolini's Teorema: An Introduction," Museum of Modern Art, New York, January 3, 2013.

"On Michelangelo Antonioni's N.U. [Nettezza Urbana]," in dialogue with David Forgacs, Antonioni, 1912-2012: An International Conference, NYU, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, March 30, 2012.

"Pasolinian Projections," Reading and performance with Stacy Szymazek, Pasolini's Body, Gallery 1:1, New York, March 22, 2012.

"Toward a Theory of Free and Indirect Painting," Rewald seminars, Department of Art History, CUNY Graduat4e Center, March 6, 2012.

"The Metaphysical City," Trinity College, Cesare Barbieri Endowment for Italian Culture, November 14, 2012.

Critics' Roundtable, The Review Panel, National Academy Museum, New York, November 18, 2011.

"At the Foot of the Stars: Joseph Stella's New York  Future," Joseph Stella's Futurism between Italy and the U.S., Newark Art Museum, November 10, 2011.

"Pasolini's Body in Theory and Practice," Sensational Religion: Sense and Contention in Material Practice, Yale University, November 1-3, 2011.

"Apostles of Mud: Pasolini's Realism between Neorealism and Neo-Avant-Garde," Realism is a Flower, GAM/Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin, Italy, May 10, 2011.

"Dialectics at a Standstill," Toward and Since the Second Republic, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, March 2011.

"A Futurist New York?," Ambience in the Humanities: Translating New Surroundings into New Poetics, The Humanities Initiative at NYU, November 19 & 20, 2010.

"The Philosopher’s Promenade," Keynote Lecture, Luigi and Anna Traverso Endowment Lecture, SUNY/New Paltz, October 28, 2010.

“Guston’s Italian Badness,” Philip Guston: The Late Work, American Academy in Rome, May 24-25, 2010.

“Narrate or Describe?,” Speaking in Tongues: Fellowship Writing and the Task of Scholarly Self-Description, University of Southern California, September 24-25, 2009.

“Guile and Tyrrany,” Surrealism and Non-Normative Sexualities, The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, July 22-25, 2009.

‘Nulle sine narratione ars’: Giorgio de Chirico and the Writing of Modernism,” The Cortona Forum on Art History Methodology, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa/École Pratique des Hautes Etudes/Harvard  University, Palazzone, Cortona, Italy, May 20-23, 2009.

“Between Matter and Make-believe: The Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe,” MIT, Department of History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, Fall Lecture Series, December 2, 2008.

“The Future by Design,” Futurism: Rupture and Tradition, Symposium on the 100th Anniversary of Futurism,University of Pennsylvania/Slought Foundation, November 21-22, 2008.

“To Mediterraneanize Painting: Giorgio de Chirico, Nietzsche, and ‘The South at Any Cost,’” The Mediterranean: Poetics and Politics 1860-1960 / Das Mittelmeer: Poetik und Politik eines Raumes 1860-1960, July 3-5, 2008, Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

Visiting Critic and Jury Invitations

University of Chicago, Department of Art studio critiques, October 3, 2014.

Jury Member, Gotham Art Prize, Italian Cultural Institute, New York, Fall 2014.

Main Reader, Arts Writers Grant Program, Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation, Summer 2014. 

Critics' Roundtable, The Review Panel, National Academy Museum, New York, October 4, 2013.

International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York City, July 18 and 25, 2013.

Smack Mellon, Artist Studio Program, Brooklyn, NY, February 15, 2013.

Selected Conference Presentations and Symposia

"A Wider Circle of Humanity?: Antonio Gramsci, the Armenian Genocide, and Cultural Activism in Italy, 1916," Columbia Seminar in Modern Italian Studies, March 27, 2015.

"Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Problem of Abstraction," 102nd Annual Conference, College Art Association, New York City, February 2015.

"An Applied Physiology: Futurism, Giorgio de Chirico, and the Sex of Style," The Measure of a Century:  Futurism at 100.  The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University, April 17-18, 2009.

Respondent, Italian Futurism: One Hundred Years Later, College Art Association, 97th Annual Conference, Los Angeles, California, February 25-28, 2009.

"The Language of Violence/The Violence of Language: F. T. Marinetti's Mafarka le futuriste (1909) and the Sculptural Imagination," Violence in Italian History and Culture, The California Interdisciplinary Consortium for Italian Studies (CICIS), University of California, Santa Cruz, Feb. 29-March 1, 2008.

"Arshile Gorky’s ‘Urban Cubism’: Inside and Out," Rethinking Arshile Gorky, College Art Association, 96th Annual Conference, Dallas, Texas, February 20-23, 2008.

"Metaphysical Modernism, 'Semitic Atavism': Giorgio de Chirico’s Wandering Jew," Global Modern Art: The World Inside Out and Upside Down, Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration, Convergence, 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art (CIHA), University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, January 13-18, 2008.

Radio/Press Interviews

Interviewed for story on "En Guerre: French Illustrations and World War I," Columbia Chronicle, Columbia College, October 23, 2014.

Interviewed for article on MoMA Pasolini retrospective, Capital New York, December 13, 2012.

Interviewed for WNYC Public Radio, Fishko Files, Special segment on "1913 and Modernist Culture," programmed for December 2012.

Interviewed for television documentary, "And What Shall I Love if not the Enigma," documentary on Giorgio de Chirico for Madmen/AMC Studios, September 2012.

Interviewed for article, “Toys of the Avant-Garde," Picasso Museum, Malaga, Deutsche-Welle English, October 22, 2010.

Interviewed for article, “Back to the Futurists: Italy's First Avant-Garde Turns 100,” Slate, June 28, 2009.

Updated on 08/31/2015