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Dr. Max Boersma

Kunsthistorisches Institut

Arbeitsbereich Prof. Dr. Eric de Bruyn

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

Koserstr. 20
Raum A 263
14195 Berlin
+49 30 838 465122


 During the summer semester 2024, my office hours are:

  •  Tuesdays, 14:15–16:00 (Room A263) or over Webex

To arrange a meeting, please contact me by email.

Max Boersma is a historian of European modernist and avant-garde art and research fellow at the Institute of Art History of the Freie Universität Berlin. His current work focuses on transnational histories of modernist abstraction and the intersections of art, design, and craft, particularly in Germany, Russia, and France. He received his PhD in the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University in 2023.

His research has received support from the German-American Fulbright Commission, the Richard and Susan Smith Foundation, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.  

Prior to the FU Berlin, he held teaching positions at Williams College and Harvard University, and his writing has appeared in October, Grey Room, and Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne.



PhD, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

MA, History of Art, Williams College

BA, Art History, University of Colorado Boulder


Fellowships and Grants

  • Presidential Scholar Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, 2022–23 
  • GSAS Dean’s Fund for Graduate Program Initiatives, Harvard University, 2023
  • Krupp Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University, 2021–22
  • Graduate Research and Travel Grant, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 2021
  • Fulbright Research Grant, Deutsch-Amerikanische Fulbright-Kommission, 2020–21
  • Graduate Research and Travel Grant, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 2020–21
  • Porter Travel Award (10-month grant), Harvard University, 2019–20
  • Presidential Scholar, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, 2016–18
  • Richard and Susan Smith Foundation Fellowship, Harvard University, 2017–18
  • Graduate Fellowship, Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, 2014–16


Awards and Honors

  • Bowdoin Prize for Graduate Essay in the English Language, Harvard University, 2022–23
  • Bowdoin Prize for Graduate Essay in the English Language, Harvard University, 2020–21
  • Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard University, Spring semester 2019
  • Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard University, Fall semester, 2018
  • Fulkerson Leadership in the Arts Award, Williams College Museum of Art, 2016


Summer Semester 2024

This seminar examines the dynamic relationships between modern art and modernity in Europe and the Americas. Spanning roughly 1850 to 1970, the course frames “modernity” not as a single condition or project, but instead as the fraught convergence of numerous epistemic, technical, material, and cultural processes, forces likewise inextricable from Western imperialism and colonialism. Weekly readings will probe how such transformations shaped aesthetic practices and their larger social realities. Each session will focus on a single discrete process—such as “extraction,” “racialization,” “standardization,” “migration,” or “creolization”—as a means of reading specific works of art as well as broader conditions of experience, power, and subjectivity. Encompassing both canonical and lesser-known artists, this seminar ultimately aims to equip students with a deeper understanding of modern art and its forms of critique, reflection, and complicity within modernity.

Ort: A 320 Übungsraum (Koserstr. 20)

Zeit: Di 12:00-14:00

Erster Termin: 16.04.2024

Unterrichtssprache: Englisch

Close looking is a foundational skill to the practice of art historians, a type of visual engagement and patient attention distinct from most everyday experiences with images. This seminar introduces close looking both theoretically and practically, enabling students to develop an original research paper out of their own firsthand observations of a work of art. For this task, students will take part in an excursion to the Neue Nationalgalerie, where each student will select a single artwork for a guided, three-hour close looking exercise. Before this museum excursion, a series of initial meetings will focus on key concepts, techniques, and benefits of visual analysis, emphasizing the capacity for close looking to generate new insights and questions. Following the exercise, students will present their own findings and reflections, which will then form the basis for final papers.

Ort: A 320 Übungsraum und Neue Nationalgalerie 

Zeit: Fr 12:00-16:00 

Erster Termin: 26.04.2024 

Unterrichtssprache: Englisch


Winter Semester 2023–24

Amid political revolutions and widespread social movements, the interwar period in Europe (1918–39) witnessed a dramatic reinvention of the figure of the artist and a broad questioning of the role of art in everyday life. Centered around movements such as Dada, Constructivism, and De Stijl, as well as institutions like the Bauhaus and Vkhutemas, these activities engaged directly with technological shifts and industrial production, generating new formats and avenues for artistic production (textiles, photomontage, graphic design, exhibition displays, and more). Surveying this rich field of experimentation, this seminar places special emphasis on the role of women and the productive breakdown of notions of art, craft, and design.

Ort: A 121 Übungsraum (Koserstr. 20)

Zeit: Mi 12:00-14:00

Erster Termin: 18.10.2023

Unterrichtssprache: Englisch



Perhaps no single art movement within Western modernism is as constitutive and contested as cubism. While the artists under this label introduced crucial new paradigms for artistic production, they did so in ways deeply entangled with violent histories of European imperialism and colonialism.

Accordingly, this seminar pursues three primary tasks. First, students develop a working understanding of cubism as it first unfolded in Paris between the years 1906 and 1917. Next, the seminar critically examines prominent theoretical models for interpreting cubist practices, among them formalism, social art history, structuralist semiotics, feminist critique, and postcolonial theory. Finally, the course turns to artists who both engaged with cubism—including Diego Rivera, Tarsila do Amaral, Wifredo Lam, and Faith Ringgold—and challenged its foundational tenets, premises, and exclusions.

Ort: A 320 Übungsraum (Koserstr. 20)

Zeit: Do 12:00-14:00

Erster Termin: 19.10.2023

Unterrichtssprache: Englisch


Summer Semester 2023

This course examines the global phenomenon of 20th century abstract art, concentrating on the medium of painting—broadly defined—from the interwar period through the early 1970s. Rather than attempting a comprehensive survey, weekly readings will engage students with recent scholarship on abstraction in a variety of contexts, including Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Arab World. The seminar will balance investigations into cultural contacts, transnational networks, comparative models, and shared concerns (materiality, color, composition, gesture, and subjectivity) with attention to autochthonous practices and specific regional and national conditions. The politics of abstraction will likewise be approached from several distinct perspectives, highlighting entanglements in both cultural imperialism and decolonial movements as well as issues of gender, race, and class.

Journal Articles:

  • “Global Patterns: Hannah Höch, Interwar Abstraction, and the Weimar Inflation Crisis,” Grey Room 91 (Spring 2023): 6–35. Link.
  • “Le patron dégenré: Hannah Höch, le cubisme et les collages-dessins,” Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no. 159 (Spring 2022): 40–52. Link.
  • “From Material to Infrastructure: Germaine Krull’s Métal,” October 173 (Summer 2020): 118–142. Link.


Other publications:

  • “Elegy to Construction,” in Polina Joffe, Ode to Construction – Abstraction in the Digital Age (Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2020), 14–31. Co-written with Madeleine Morley.
    • Project awarded Bronze Medal by the Stiftung Buchkunst, Best Book Design from all over the World, 2023
  • “Staging the ‘Nautch Girls,’” in Women in South Asian Art, digital publication, Harvard Art Museums, January 2018.
  • “Selected Bibliography,” in Kevin M. Murphy, “Not Theories but Revelations:” The Art and Science of Abbott Handerson Thayer (Williamstown, MA: Williams College Museum of Art, 2016), 119–126.
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