CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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Displaying displays. Historicing displays in modern museums

Session 17 Display


 In recent years, more and more museums are installing specific galleries which recreate historic displays. Among the most popular trends are recreations of Early Modern „Kunst- und Wunderkammern“ or „cabinets of curiosity“. Other displays mimic the layout of Baroque picture galleries or try to revive 18th century Chinese porcelain cabinets. The objects figuring in these displays rarely originate from one and the same historic collection. Even fewer are those cases in which the objects are re-installed in their actual historic setting. Usually, we have to do with artificial assemblies of items coming from various provenances. Inasmuch as it links past and present modes of display, tries to re-contextualize the objects in their historical role as exhibits, and establishes new kinds of relationship with the beholder, the historicising displays discussed in this paper point to the heart of the question of „display“. As authentic as the historicising museum displays may be, they can only recreate the outward aspect of a former collection as they are bound to the requirements of modern museum installations. The paper discusses different examples of „double displays“ with regard to their complex impact on the object, the beholder, and the narratives of art and exhibition history.




Dr Anja Grebe is Professor of Cultural History and Museum and Collection Studies at the Danube University of Krems (Austria). She studied Art History, Media History, History, and French Literature at the University of Constance, where she received her Ph.D. in 2000. In 2012, she qualified as a professor (German habilitation) with a thesis on ‘Albrecht Dürer’s fame’ (published in 2013). She specializes in late medieval and Early Modern art of Northern Europe and the history of collections. She has published numerous books and articles on medieval art, Albrecht Dürer and Northern Renaissance art, the history and theory of museums and collections, and the visual culture of the Middle Ages and Early Modern times.


Selected Publications :


Albrecht Dürer in Asian Art. Paradigms of Reproduction and Transformation, in: Between East and West. Reproductions in Art, hg. Osano Shigetoshi, Krakau 2014, 389-401;

Dürer – Die Geschichte seines Ruhms, Petersberg 2013;

Albrecht Dürers „Kunstbücher“. Ordnungssysteme frühneuzeitlicher Graphiksammlungen und die Anfänge des „Catalogue raisonné“. In: Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft 39, 2012 (2013), 27-75;

Museum and Mnemosyne. Aby Warburg, André Malraux and the re-/construction of art history as social history, in: “Le Musée Imaginaire” and Temptations of the Orient and Japan, ed. Hidemichi Tanaka, Akita 2010, 55-61 (;

Transgressing the Borders: The Fortunes of Flemish Book Illumination in Southern Germany after 1500, in: Manuscripts in Transition. Recycling Manuscripts, Texts and Images, hg. Bert Cardon, Leuven 2005, 431-439