Call for Papers: Être historien de l’art aujourd’hui

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on December 16, 2009

From the INHA website:

Being an Art Historian Today : An International Symposium
Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris, 18-19 June 2010

Paper proposals due by 25 January 2010

Organized by THES-ARTS, association of PhD students and PhD’s in 19th- and 20th-Century Art, at the Paris-Sorbonne University

For its first anniversary in June 2010, the THES-ARTS Association will initiate a series of symposiums in order to promote the work of young art historians. As preamble THES-ARTS decided to dedicate its first symposium to today’s role of the art historian. This event will be the occasion to place ourselves in relation to this discipline and also to statue on its evolution. Being a social science, Art History cannot afford a fixed way of looking at things, but needs constant renewal by confronting itself to the evolution of its proper subject of research. While the artistic revolutions of the last decades have deeply transformed the process of creation, it has become inevitable to question the way these disruptions have, or have not changed the thoughts and researches of the art historian, as well as the applications of his work. This symposium will be organized around three main problematics, which will question the rearrangement of traditional settings in which Art History is born.

New Researching Tools / New Art Forms / New Art Histories?

In the last few years, the new materialities of the work as the new researching tools have reinvented the approach and the speech of the art historian. Through the artistic experimentations, which have emerged at the dawn of the twentieth century, the materiality of the work has changed. The artist has appropriated every single element of life from the usual objects to the precious ones, from the organic to the new technologies, from tangible to the immaterial. The lack of boundaries of these raw materials has enriched the artistic vocabulary that has in its turn contributed to the evolution of the art historian’s theoretical vocabulary. The art historian’s work has been revitalized by the creation of innovative tools, which brought him to reconsider his approach towards new and old works. Thanks to technology and especially to computer science, many tools are now accessible to the researcher. Databases have been created, museums have digitized their collections and archives are now widely available by remote access. Is travelling and facing the original works getting superfluous? This symposium will be the occasion to study how art historians reinvent their way of researching and their speech when faced with these new stakes.

Art History Today: In Search of Critical Detachment

The renewal of the work materiality and the methodology of the art historian raise the question of the detachment he uses to understand the works of his time. Constantly assailed by requests to give his point of view in the various medias, isn’t he playing both roles, the one of critics and of scientifics? His ability to expertise gives him a specific legitimacy to express his judgments of taste. But at the same time, he might try to find his place amongst writers, journalists or even philosophers? Is this mediatic shift shattering the theoretical foundations of Art History? Some studies will have to answer these questions by recounting the epistemological continuities and discontinuities which characterize Art History and by analyzing how the past’s Art History influences today’s Art History.

Art History as Applied Art

From the library to the museum via the gallery, the art historian has to face different scopes of application that turned his knowledge into a “savoir-faire” making sense in its interaction with other subjects and jobs. Through this gathering of knowledge which has also nourished other theories, doesn’t the art historian appear as much as a scientific and a professional of conservation and circulation of cultural inheritance? From these three problematics, transverse studies will contribute to improve the thought. Thus, while questions have appeared in recent years concerning the survival of Art History (in the works of Hervé Fischer and Hans Belting, for example), this upcoming symposium will remind us how the art historian has always been able to invent a totally new methodology, a new approach of art, metamorphosing his fields of thinking and his areas of applications, as he was carried by the creative impetus of art.

Abstracts — in French or English — should not be more than 500 words. Please submit the abstract and a short CV, before the 25th January 2010 to: thesarts.sorbonne@gmail.com. Replies will be sent at the end of January 2010. For the participants, the costs of travel and lodging will be paid for in full or in part. Articles will be published after the conference on the THES-ARTS website.


The French artist and philosopher Hervé Fischer symbolically cut the the string of linear Art History on 15 February 1979 during a performance in the Centre Pompidou Museum. He is also the author of the essay L’histoire de l’art est terminée published in 1981. The German art historian Hans Belting continues Fischer’s reflections in 1983, in L’histoire de l’art est-elle finie?

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