Douglas Crimp  

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"In 1977 Crimp curated the influential exhibition Pictures at Artists Space, presenting the early work of Sherrie Levine, Jack Goldstein, Philip Smith, Troy Brauntuch, and Robert Longo." -- Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Douglas Crimp (August 19, 1944 - July 5, 2019) was an American writer, curator, and art historian. He was professor in art history at the University of Rochester.


Early life and education

Born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Crimp went to Tulane University in New Orleans on a scholarship to study art history. His career started after moving to New York in 1967, where he worked as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim Museum and as an art critic, writing for Art News and Art International. In 1967 Crimp worked briefly for the couturier Charles James, helping him organize his papers to write his memoir.

Between 1971 and 1976 Crimp taught at The School of Visual Arts before enrolling graduate school at the Graduate Center at CUNY where he studied contemporary art and theory with Rosalind Krauss. In 1977 he became the managing editor of the journal October, which had been founded by Rosalind Krauss, Annette Michelson, and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe in 1976. He was quickly appointed to be a co-editor, and he was a central figure in the journal until he left in 1990.

Shortly after he left October, Crimp taught gay studies at Sarah Lawrence College. In 1992 he began teaching in the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester, where he was the Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History.


Crimp was an important critic in the development of postmodern art theory. In 1977 he curated the influential exhibition Pictures at Artists Space, presenting the early work of Sherrie Levine, Jack Goldstein, Philip Smith, Troy Brauntuch, and Robert Longo. Two years later he elaborated the discussion of postmodern artistic strategies in an essay with the same title in October, including Cindy Sherman in what came to be known as the "Pictures Generation." In his 1980 October essay On the Museum's Ruins he applied the ideas of Foucault to an analysis of museums, describing them as an "institution of confinement" comparable to the asylums and prisons that are the subjects of Foucault's investigations. His essays on postmodernist art and institutional critique were published in the 1993 book On the Museum’s Ruins.

In 1985, Crimp was one of numerous art critics, curators, and artists who spoke at a General Services Administration hearing in defense of Richard Serra's controversial public sculpture Tilted Arc, which had been commissioned as a site-specific piece for Federal Plaza in New York and was ultimately removed in 1989.

In 1987 Crimp edited a special AIDS-issue of October, entitled AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism. In his introduction to the edition Crimp argued for "cultural practices actively participating in the struggle against AIDS and its cultural consequences." During this time he was an active member of the AIDS-activist group ACT UP in New York. Mourning and Militancy (1989) discusses the connections between the artistic representations of mourning and the politic interventions of militancy. Crimp argues that these two opposing positions should be allowed to co-exist. In 1990 he published a book entitled AIDS Demo Graphics on the activist esthetics of ACT UP together with Adam Rolston. Crimp’s work on AIDS has been seen as an important contribution to the development of queer theory in the US. In 2002, Crimp published all his previous work on AIDS in the book Melancholia and Moralism – Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics. Feminist scholar Diana Fuss and cultural critic Phillip Brian Harper urged Crimp to publish his notes, "over dinner one summer evening."

In 2016, Crimp published his memoir, Before Pictures, on the relationship between the art world and the gay world in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. The book begins in his hometown in Idaho, where he escapes to New York to write criticism for ArtNews while working at the Guggenheim. Working as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim, Crimp notes that he was one of the few to see Daniel Buren’s Peinture-Sculpture before it was removed from the museum. Crimp details his days working at the Chelsea Hotel for designer Charles James, spending his evenings watching film and ballet, and co-founding the art journal October. Crimp also describes New York nightlife in the 1960s and 1970s during the rise of garage, house, and disco music, recreational drugs, and late nights alongside the Warhol crowd at the Max’s Kansas City. Later, Crimp describes how he began to focus his attention to activism dedicated to rethinking AIDS.



  • Template:Cite book
  • AIDS Demo Graphics. Seattle: Bay Press, 1990 (with Adam Rolston) Template:ISBN
  • On the Museum's Ruins. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1993 Template:ISBN
  • Melancholia and Moralism - Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2002 Template:ISBN
  • "Our Kind of Movie": The Films of Andy Warhol. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2012 Template:ISBN
  • Before Pictures. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016 Template:ISBN


  • "The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism," October, vol. 15 (Winter 1980), pp. 91-101.
  • "Fassbinder, Franz, Fox, Elvira, Erwin, Armin, and All the Others," October, vol. 21 (Summer 1982), pp. 62-81.
  • "AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism," October, vol. 43 (Winter 1987), pp. 3-16.
  • "Mourning and Militancy," October, vol. 51 (Winter 1989), pp. 3-18.
  • "Getting the Warhol We Deserve," Social Text, vol. 17, no. 2 (Summer 1999), pp. 49-66.
  • "Yvonne Rainer, Muciz Lover," Grey Room, vol. 22 (Winter 2006), pp. 49-67.
  • "Merce Cunningham: Dancers, Artworks, and People in the Galleries," Artforum International, vol. 47, no. 2 (October 2008), pp. 347-355, 407, 410.
  • "You Can Still See Her: The Art of Trisha Brown," Artforum International, vol. 49, no. 5 (January 2011), pp. 154-159, 242.


Critical studies and reviews

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Douglas Crimp" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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