Public debate

Élisabeth Lebovici

Activists find tools for visibility in visual production. To inform, we need to make visible bodies, sexualities and speeches excluded by the social panic they generate.

Questioning, understanding, putting things into perspective: Élisabeth Lebovici examines the history of modern and contemporary art, giving a voice to those whose contributions are often forgotten.

Updated on 21/02/2019

2 min

A French art historian, critic and curator born in 1953, Élisabeth Lebovici studied in Paris and New York, where, in 1979-1980, notably, she enrolled in the curator Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

After completing her PhD thesis on American artists in 1983 Nanterre, she contributed to various works on modern art and to the Universalis Encyclopaedia, before becoming editor-in-chief of the Beaux-Arts Magazine from 1987 to 1990, and joining the editorial team of Libération, where she would remain until 2006. Élisabeth Lebovici then wrote for Artpress and Critique d’art.

A politically-engaged individual, Élisabeth Lebovici was an activist with Act Up-Paris. Issues related to sexuality, gender and feminism inform her work as an art historian.

In her works on modern and contemporary art, Élisabeth Lebovici focuses in particular on highlighting politically-engaged female artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Claude Cahun, Nancy Spero and Zoe Leonard. She also curated the "Beau comme un camion” [“Pretty like a Truck”] exhibition, presented during the European Lesbian and Gay Pride in Paris in 1997.

In 2017 she released What AIDS made me, art and activism at the end of the 20th century (“Ce que le sida m’a fait, art et activisme à la fin du XXe siècle”): in this book she explores the role of AIDS in her critical work and the role of art during the AIDS years in the United States and France. She blends memories, interviews and essays with the subjectivity of the “I” – a rare approach in art history.

Élisabeth Lebovici's activist background was profoundly formed by the United States. When she arrived in New York in 1979, the art historian discovered an exchange between disciplines, which, according to her, determined how the American art world contributes to the AIDS debate. Ever since she has constantly examined and compared the artistic discourses on AIDS in France and the United States.

Élisabeth Lebovici regularly discusses art and activism in New York, Warsaw and in various international publications. In addition to a weekly seminar that she co-directs at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, she was invited by the University of Manchester to speak on the subject of activism and by the California College of Arts to talk about the profession of critic.

  • 1979


    Élisabeth Lebovici moves to the United States for the first time to participate in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

  • 1983


    At the University of Nanterre, she defends her PhD thesis on Money in American Artistic Discourse: 1980-81 (“L'Argent dans le discours des artistes américains : 1980-1981”).

  • 1994


    Élisabeth Lebovici starts to protest with Act Up-Paris.

  • 1991


    She joins the culture department of the Libération newspaper.

  • 2017


    Élisabeth Lebovici receives the Pierre Daix Prize for What AIDS made me, which recognizes a book on modern and contemporary art history each year.

The Institut français and the author.

Élisabeth Lebovici participated in "Gender in Translation", organised at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2016. In 2019, she will participate in the Night of Ideas in Serbia around the theme "Women in History, Women's Stories".

L'institut français, LAB