CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed

Schedule of Session 17.pdf

Schedule of Session 17.jpg

The display of art has been the topic of many research programs in recent years, especially among the historians of collections and of museums. By investigating this topic, we endeavour to understand how a work of art or an object interacts or has interacted with its environment, what kind of relationships it establishes with its viewers or with other objects, in which context it is or has been presented? Through the history of art, we attempt at the same time to discover how these objects were shown, to what kind of public and for what purpose? All these issues naturally have much to do not only with museology or questions raised by contemporary exhibition making practices, but also with anthropology or social history.


The papers for Session 17 might perhaps consider the spaces that surround works of art in different cultures and civilizations, the way these works were integrated, compared or classified with others, how the viewer was introduced to these objects, how publics were constructed, what they had to do in order to gain access to these objects and what kind of ceremonies accompanied their contemplation? Furthermore, how have art historians shaped the narratives of art history through exhibitions? How can devices of display rewrite narratives? What effect does the exhibition have on art historical concepts and methodologies? Throughout history, how have “curators” engaged in the performance of differences by engaging in exhibition making practices?


Here, we want also to clarify the nature of what one might to call the politics of display. Art has changed radically in the last 50 years, becoming far more complicated as a practice, at once both visual and conceptual, relational and political, discursive and performative, capitalized and institutionalized. Accompanying these changes, today, we find the museum to be no longer merely a seat for the Muses, having become instead a complex hybrid of - amongst other things - theatre, cinema, classroom, workshop, congress hall and public square. In the same way, display is not only an attendant design grammar for the museum exhibitions, nor is it merely to do with publicising artworks. Rather, display is itself the construction of a situation in the sense Guy Debord deployed the term, as a means to: "produce new social relationships and thus new social realities". The politics of display refers not to the politics of identity or of the multicultural management that governs the making of exhibitions and historical narrative, but concerns rather the ambiguous relationship of labor and work, aura and fetish, authorship and ownership, object-hood and event-hood, consumption and communication.


Display, as the moment of art’s disclosure, is not to do solely with the placement of artworks, nor is it simply a "jouissance installation”; it presents us rather with a possibility, to overcome the fetishism of museum, to transcend our limits of spectatorship.