Michelle McCoy | History of Art and Architecture | University of Pittsburgh
History of Art and Architecture

Michelle McCoy

Assistant Professor

Area of Specialization

Premodern China


Constellation(s): Visual Knowledge, Agency, Mobility/Exchange, Identity, Temporalities, Environment

Michelle McCoy’s research addresses the relationship between art, science, and devotionalism in premodern China and Inner Asia. Her current book project examines the visual and material culture of astronomy and astrology in the era leading up to the thirteenth-century Mongol conquest of Eurasia, when knowledge of the heavens that circulated across the continent transformed practices of visual depiction. She is part of a small, interdisciplinary global community of scholars of the Tanguts, an Inner Asian people who controlled the primary overland conduit linking East with Central and South Asia between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries and whose synthesis of Chinese, Himalayan, and Indic visualities plays a foundational role in the history of “Sino-Tibetan” art. McCoy’s other research areas include Buddhist image theories, visual semiotics, and theories and practices of translation. Increasingly turning toward digital tools for art historical research and analysis, she is an ongoing contributor to the Visualizing the Heavens trans-Eurasian database project at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. She also serves as academic consultant for a suite of virtual-reality Buddhist grottoes currently in development with support from the Dunhuang Foundation. McCoy maintains an investment in the public exhibition of art objects, including the 2016 Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, the first-ever major North American exhibition on this singular repository of premodern Buddhist art.

Education Details

PhD University of California, Berkeley

MA University of California, Davis

BFA Pratt Institute

Selected Publications

Complete catalogue entries. Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Art and Culture on China’s Silk Road. Exhibition Catalogue. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2016. 26–7, 187–271.

     Winner of the 2017 Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) Award for Art Exhibitions, Association of American Publishers

Selected Awards

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Ittleson Fellowship, Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts 

International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council

Fulbright–IIE Fellowship

Sophia Sheng–Dunhuang Foundation Visiting Research Associate, Mogao Grottoes