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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Visual Evidence: Authority, Attribution and the Politics of Connoisseurship (c.1850-1920) - 2 day workshop

Senate Room, University College and the Oriental Museum

As part of the CVAC and IAS Visual Evidence Series, we are delighted to announce that the next workshop ‘Authority, Attribution and the Politics of Connoisseurship (c.1850-1920)’ will be taking place on 19th and 20th May 2016.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of scholarly interest in the practices by which the fine-arts have been historically collected, classified and institutionally legitimized. In the process the historiography of art history has been dramatically revised. A host of studies have identified the elusive but pivotal role of commercial networks, dealers and critics in the maintenance and extension of ‘art worlds’. Dealers and critics acted as proxies for plutocrats and for governments at a time when the quest for prestigious artworks was a source of acute geopolitical competition. This workshop will explore the political, economic and juridical questions related to the authentication and ownership of works of art in the heyday of nation-formation, imperialism, globalization and world war.

The period 1850-1920 was decisive in producing new forms of knowledge and a new politics surrounding works of art. Firstly, scientific and subjective procedures were proposed for identifying art and artists, with intense ideological significance being attached to matters of style and method. Secondly, the practice of art history was transformed by the expertise embodied in museums, university departments and the specialist art press on both sides of the Atlantic. Thirdly, new technologies of reproduction fashioned new ways of documenting art, changing the protocols for proof as well as the opportunities for deception. Fourthly, legislation governing cultural heritage evolved on both a national and international level, with fierce debate over plunder, preservation and restitution. Lastly, trade and contact with non-European civilizations created lively and exotic new collecting fields, whose contents and procedures had to be urgently defined. These structural trends together created an anxious and volatile environment, with inexperienced buyers, unscrupulous dealers, fragmented approaches, rivalries between national institutions, and a market flooded with frauds.

This two-day workshop will be led by Thomas Stammers (History) but is open to scholars from all departments in the university. It will draw on the participation of resident IAS fellow for Epiphany term, John Brewer, and will feature a number of distinguished external speakers, including Nick Pearce, Veronique Gerard-Powell, Barbara Lasic, Christopher Hodgkinson, Matthew Potter and Emanuele Lugli. As well as providing a forum for established and emerging scholars, the workshop will include a session at the Oriental Museum.

The workshop will be held in the Senate Room of University College (Castle) on the 19th May and the Oriental Museum on the 20th May 2016. Attendance for members of the university will be free, but there will be a small charge for outside visitors.

To reserve a place, please email cvac@durham.ac.uk.

Contact cvac@durham.ac.uk. for more information about this event.