Niels Henriksen

Ph.D., 2022


Niels Henriksen is a modernist with a specialization in twentieth-century European and American art. His research focuses on points of contact between twentieth-century art practices and the historiography of an art theory at the junction of art history, prehistory, archaeology, and anthropology. Other research interests include the histories and theories of modern architecture, twentieth-century theories of technology, the history of photography, and global modernisms.

Niels’s dissertation “Figure as Cultural Form: The art and ‘archaeology’ of Asger Jorn (1947–1973)” takes, as its starting point, six illustrated books on prehistoric and medieval art created by the Danish painter, sculptor, and philosopher Asger Jorn. Based on overlaps found between the operations that Jorn used for the classification and periodization of images and artifacts in his books and the procedures that he used for the creation and alteration of figural forms in his paintings, drawings, and prints, the dissertation argues Jorn’s “archaeology” was an analytic and intellectual technique as well as a creative one. By combining formal and technical analyses with in-depth bibliographical research, Figure as Cultural Form paints a multilayered and complex picture of the relationship between history, theory, and practice in the work of a key mid-twentieth-century European artist. 

During his dissertation work Niels has held a one-year Mellon-Marron Research Consortium Fellowship at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, that year’s theme was the work of Jean Dubuffet, a Sylvan C. Coleman and Pam Coleman Memorial Fund Fellowship at the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and a nine-month residential predoctoral fellowship at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, theme: Vandalism and Iconoclasm. Niels’s dissertation research has been further supported by grants from The Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Donald and Mary Hyde Summer Fellowship, and The New Carlsberg Foundation.

In 2012, Niels co-edited a special issue of the journal October on Asger Jorn to which he also contributed translations of five of Jorn’s texts. His own research has been published in RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics and in the catalogue for the exhibition Asger Jorn: Restless Rebel at the National Gallery of Denmark in 2014. In addition to his Ph.D., Niels holds an M.Litt. in the history of photography from the University of St Andrews and a M.A. in art history from the University of Copenhagen. Niels was Helena Rubinstein Critical Fellow at The Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program between 2009 and 2010.