Prof.dr. C.J.M. (Kitty) Zijlmans

  • Professor
  • Art history
  • Contemporary art
  • Theory and methodology
  • World art studies

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 8033
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for the Arts in Society, KG Moderne beeldende kunst
Office Address: Johan Huizingagebouw
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 2.14
Personal Homepage:​lucas/​members-modern-contemporary/​zijlmanscjm.html


I take an interest in the field of the contemporary development of art and art theory and in the formation of art theory in the discipline of History of Art. Dynamics and pluralism characterise the field of visual arts. Important changes typical of the present period, such as - apart from the globalisation movement - the incorporation of science and technology on a grand scale, all have a great impact on both the production of art and how art is conceived. More and more crossover art can be seen to occur in the different disciplinary arts (sculptural arts, photography, design, fashion, architecture), different domains (art and science/ technology; art and other social fields) between art and popular (image) culture; and multi-media are employed increasingly (the application of all possible materials, technologies and media). This results in a great variety of art practices and art forms which trigger the need to reflect upon the place of art in our culture and to develop new theories in order to gain a better understanding of these processes. 

Art historical research in the contemporary period is conducted under the heading ‘Contemporary Art beyond Boundaries (CAbB)’, of which Professor R. Zwijnenberg and myself are the programme directors. The research programme focuses on two artistic practices which are breaking fresh ground and have two points of particular interest: Contemporary Art and Discourse in a Globalizing World (K. Zijlmans) and Interactions of Art and Science (R. Zwijnenberg).

‘Contemporary Art and Discourse in a Globalizing World’ is directed towards a  critical research on current concepts, theories and art practices in a globalizing  world. At the centre we find, on the one hand, the question of how (contemporary) art is reflected in inter-culturalisation processes, how it questions these processes and discusses them, and, on the other hand, there is the is the question of the interdisciplinary cadres and concepts from which these new products of art can be understood and positioned. Within this field of activity, an increasingly complex process of identity formation occurs. This has great impact on the social and cultural domain. Art assumes a position in which this multiple cultural dimension has become problematic and where cultural codes are under discussion. Research on contemporary art constitutes the conceptual cadre for ‘World Art Studies: Practices and Debates’, in which concepts and approaches are developed to understand and study art as a pan-human phenomenon.

This issue is the focus of the research project ‘Laboratory on the Move’ by Kitty Zijlmans and Ni Haifeng. The project is one of the seven ‘CO-OPs: Inter-territorial explorations in Art and Science’ by the Humanities’ research programme ‘Transformations in Art and Culture’, subsidised by NWO. In the CO-OPs an artist and a scientist continue to collaborate within the field of their mutual interest. The central question posed is what new insights a connection between artistic-reflective thought and scientific-analytical thought may produce and what (reflection on the) processes of knowledge production evolve when artists and scientists work closely together.

Curriculum Vitae

Kitty Zijlmans (Den Haag 1955) studied History of Art in Leiden. She worked as a History of Art lecturer at the Royal Academy for Art and Design in ’s-Hertogenbosch for some time and has been attached to the Art Historical Institute at Leiden University since 1989. She obtained her PhD based on a dissertation on history of art and system theory: ‘Art / History Art. Theory and practice of an art historical method based on a system theoretical basis’, Leiden 1990.

On 1 July 2000 she was appointed Professor in the History and Theory of contemporary sculptural Art at Leiden University. From 2000-2004 she was chairman of the Art Historical Institute’s Executive Board and from 2002-2004 chairman of Pallas, the Faculty of Arts’ research school for Art Historical and  Literary Studies. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the ESF (European Science Foundation) network  ’Discourses of the Visible: National and International perspectives’ (2003-2007), see: (under networks > humanities).

She is a member of the programmes committee of the Humanities research programme on: Transformations in Art and Culture’ [TKC] which is subsidized by NWO and she is also project leader of one of the projects in the TKC sub divisional programme ‘CO-OPs : Inter-territorial explorations in Arts and Science’, see:  She is founding co-editor of the series ‘Arts, Sciences and Cultures of Memory’, published by Equinox in London. In Spring 2005, she was a visiting Professor at the University of California in Berkeley. Since January 2006, she has been a member of the Dutch Council for Culture for the committee of Sculptural Art and Design, and with effect of March 2006 she has become a counsellor for NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies).
In 2010 she was accepted as member of the KNAW, the royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

From January 2011-September 2014 Academic Director of LUCAS, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

Publications (digital)

  • ‘Wat is kunstgeschiedenis?’, vier hoorcolleges over kunstgeschiedenis als moderne wetenschap, Home Academy 2010. Isbn 978-90-8530-060-1

Publications (books)

Art History and Visual Studies in Europe. Transnational Discourses and National Frameworks. Edited by Matthew Rampley, Thierry Lenain, Hubert Locher, Andrea Pinotti, Charlotte Schoell-Glass & Kitty Zijlmans. Subseries Editor: Robert Zwijnenberg. Leiden/Boston: Brill 2012. (567 pagina’s).
ISBN: 978-90-04-21877-2

- Kitty Zijlmans (with Wilfried van Damme), ‘Art History in a Global frame: World Art Studies’, pp. 217-229.
- Kitty Zijlmans (with Marga van Mechelen), ‘Art History in the Netherlands: The Past and Present of the Discipline’, pp. 407-420.

Reflection on the history and practice of art history has long been a major topic of research and scholarship, and this volume builds on this tradition by offering a critical survey of many of the major developments in the contemporary discipline, such as the impact of digital technologies, the rise of visual studies or new initiatives in conservation theory and practice. Alongside these methodological issues this book addresses the mostly neglected question of the impact of national contexts on the development of the discipline. Taking a wide range of case studies, this book examines the … impact of the specific national political, institutional and ideological demands on the practice of art history. The result is an account that both draws out common features and also highlights the differences and the plurality of practices that together constitute art history as a discipline.

  • The Unwanted Land. Tiong Ang / David Bade/  Dirk de Bruyn / Sonja van Kerkhoff / Renée Ridgway / Rudi Struik. Eds. [and contributions], Kitty Zijlmans et al. Zwolle: Waanders ism museum Beelden aan Zee 2010.  ISBN: 978-90-400-7722-7
Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, 22 October 2010 – 13 February 2011
The Unwanted Land is an exhibition and artistic research project developed by six artists: Tiong Ang, David Bade, Dirk de Bruyn, Sonja van Kerkhoff, Renée Ridgway and Rudi Struik. They have created a collective installation that transforms Museum Beelden aan Zee’s large gallery into an environment that invites public participation in the project. The theme of The Unwanted Land is the personal experience of migration. All the participating artists have been migrants in their own way; each of them has come into contact with a foreign language or culture. Their personal recollections are the basis for works of art that examine these experiences in a colourful, critical and artistic manner. Interaction with the public is an important component of the project. Where is the land that lives within you? This book contains essays by historians and art historians that place the subject in a theoretical framework. The artists recount their experiences of migration in word and image. Several authors, most of whom have their roots in other countries, have contributed personal columns about their experience of displacement and settling in this country.

  • World Art Studies: Exploring Concepts and Approaches. Eds. [and contributions] Kitty Zijlmans and Wilfried van Damme, Amsterdam: Valiz 2008. ISBN  978-90-78088-22-6
Review Whitney Davis book World Art Studies in Art History,Vol. 33, No. 4, September 2010: 711-716

  • The Return of the Shreds, Kitty Zijlmans and Ni Haifeng, publication accompanying the exhibition,  Leiden: Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal/Amsterdam: Valiz 2008. ISBN  978-90-71655-22-7

  • Forms of Exchange, Kitty Zijlmans and Ni Haifeng, publication accompanying the exhibition, Sittard: Museum Het Domein 2008. ISBN 978-90-75883-42-8

  • CO-OPs. Interterritoriale verkenningen in kunst en wetenschap / Exploring new territories in art and science. Work in progress. Eds. [and contributions],Kitty Zijlmans, Rob Zwijnenberg, Krien Clevis, Amsterdam: Buitenkant 2007. ISBN 978-90-76452-09-8

Publications (articles and editing)

  • Kitty Zijlmans (Ed.) Beyond the Dutch. Indonesia, the Netherlands and the Visual Arts, from 1900 until now. Eds.. Meta Knol, Remco Raben, Kittty Zijlmans. Utrecht: KIT Publishers, 2009. Isbn: 978-94-8022-059-3
  • Kitty Zijlmans, ‘An Intercultural Perspective in Art History: Beyond Othering and Appropriation’, in: James Elkins (Ed.), Is Art History Global?, New York/London: Routledge 2007, pp 289-298. isbn: 0-415-97785-1.
  • Kitty Zijlmans, ‘Gott Mit Uns’, in: Astrid Honold (Ed.), Gott Mit Uns - Folkert de Jong. With essays by K. Zijlmans, J. Dietvorst, S. Weyns. Amsterdam: Black Cat Publishing 2006: 22-41
  • Kitty Zijlmans (Ed.), Site-Seeing. Places in Culture, Time and Space. Leiden: CNWS Publications 2006 (editor, introduction, and contribution: Kitty Zijlmans, ‘Labyrinth of Sound. The Fortress at Asperen as Contemporary Installation Art’: 33-52)
  • Kitty Zijlmans, ‘Kunstgeschiedenis en het discours over mondialisering’, in: Marokko: Kunst en Design 2005, catalogue Rotterdam Wereldmuseum 2005. Text in Dutch and Arabic: 21-25 and 80-78.
  • Kitty Zijlmans, ‘Die Welt im Blickfeld. Unterwegs zu einer global orientierten Kunstgeschichte’, in: Claus Volkenandt (Ed.), Kunstgeschichte und ‘Weltgegenwartskunst’. Konzepte – Methoden – Perpektiven, Berlin: Reimer Verlag 2004: 243-259

Last Modified: 10-12-2015