Conference | Keeping History Above Water

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on March 10, 2016


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One centerpiece of this upcoming conference on rising sea levels and historic preservation will be the NRF’s 74 Bridge Street Probe, a case study of possible mitigation adaptations for the ca. 1728 Christopher Townsend House and the surrounding colonial-era ‘Point’ neighborhood, which sits perilously close to mean sea level, and in which NRF owns about a dozen other eighteenth-century houses. From the conference website:

Keeping History Above Water: Sea Level Rise and Historic Preservation
Newport, Rhode Island, 10-13 April 2016

Keeping History Above Water will be one of the first national conversations to focus on the increasing and varied risks posed by sea level rise to historic coastal communities and their built environments. This is not a conference about climate change, but about what preservationists, engineers, city planners, legislators, insurers, historic home owners and other decision makers need to know about climate change—sea level rise in particular—and what can be done to protect historic buildings, landscapes and neighborhoods from the increasing threat of inundation.

Over four days, specialists from across the United States and abroad will share experiences, examine risks, and debate solutions with an emphasis on case studies and real world applications. Keeping History Above Water will approach sea level rise from a multi-disciplinary perspective in order to develop practical approaches to mitigation, protective adaptation, and general resilience.

For anyone concerned with preserving historic coastal communities, Keeping History Above Water offers an opportunity to hear from leaders in the field, participate in workshops on practical solutions, tour threatened areas and structures in Newport and its environs, and simply connect over this area of shared concern.

The Newport Restoration Foundation

Founded as a not-for-profit institution in 1968 by Doris Duke, the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) preserves, maintains, and interprets the early architectural heritage of Aquidneck Island and the fine and decorative art collections of Doris Duke. Since its founding, NRF has restored and preserved more than 80 eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century buildings, 74 of which are currently rented as private residences to tenant stewards and maintained by a full-time crew of carpenters and painters. This is one of the largest collections of period architecture owned by a single organization anywhere in the United States. More importantly, the majority of these structures are being lived in and used as they have for more than three centuries, making them an enduring and defining feature of the historic architectural fabric of Newport and a source of great pride for the community.

As a leader in the preservation of early American architecture, the NRF is well positioned to provide a forum for the exchange of information across disciplinary boundaries for collaborative problem solving in the areas of most critical concern to the field of historic preservation today.

Conference Partners

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Preserve Rhode Island
Roger Williams University
Salve Regina University
URI’s Coastal Resource Center
Union of Concerned Scientists

Call for Papers | Seeing Through? The Materiality of Dioramas

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on March 10, 2016

From H-ArtHist:

Seeing Through? The Materiality of Dioramas, 1560–2010
University of Bern, 1–2 December 2016

Proposals due by 31 May 2016

Dioramas are at the crossroads of artistic and scientific practices. They bring together artists, scientists, and collectors, thus providing an opportunity to reflect on the polyvalence of these actors and the definition of their expertise. In 1822, Louis Daguerre coined the term ‘diorama’ when describing his theater. The word diorama means literally ‘seeing through’. In accordance with this etymology, dioramas embody a sense of transparency and life-likeness. In addition to providing theatrical and visual experiences, dioramas are multidimensional installations that incorporate paintings, objects, stuffed animals or mannequins. Habitat groups mixing taxidermy and painted backgrounds were designed for natural history museums, while anthropological dioramas were disseminated all over Europe during the second half of the nineteenth century. They were usually life-sized and site specific, but they could also be reduced to maquettes.

To date, these installations have been studied by scholars from various disciplines, mainly as side topics. Media historians have considered them primarily as proto-cinematic, whereas within the fields of anthropology, museum studies and postcolonial studies, they are generally analyzed as displays that reflect political taxonomies and stereotyped representations.

However, dioramas are not merely images or displays: they are also physical objects made of multiple materials, such as plaster, wood, paper, paint, glass, fur, wax, and metal. The discipline of art history thus provides us with the opportunity to approach the materiality of these installations. Indeed, dioramas are composite and hybrid things, created through cultural interaction and physical encounter. Multiple hands as well as various visions are involved in the process of their creation—and later on, during their conservation. Dioramas therefore allow for the study of contact zones and material exchanges between private and public spheres, as well as between Western and non-Western contexts. Finally, dioramas as objects of study within the field of art history enable us to address values such as authenticity and realism in various contexts.

Part 1  A Genealogy, 1560–1822
This session will explore the diorama’s prehistory before its ‘invention’ by Daguerre, starting with objects, installations, and machinery created for churches and theaters between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Three-dimensional installations, such as groups gathering natural history specimen (taxidermic animals, skeletons) will be of greatest interest. Presentations may focus on wax museums, and more broadly on hyperrealistic figures that were displayed in groups and used for entertainment as well as for pedagogical or medical purposes. Early forms of panoramas, and diaphanoramas will also be of primary importance, such as the creations of the Swiss landscape painter Franz Niklaus König, first exhibited in Bern in 1811.

Part 2  Dioramania, 1822–1970
The second session will consider the numerous dioramas created during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Habitat Groups and anthropological dioramas became very popular in international fairs and museums until the mid-twentieth century. They were common in both Western and non-Western cultures, and were especially prominent in the Middle East. In some cases, dioramas were intended to represent national identities and in others, they became forms of resistance used, for instance, by African-American or Native American communities. The contributions to this section may explore the creation of specific sets of installations in fairs, museums, and public space, as well as the politics of dioramas.

Part 3  Re-appropriation, 1970–2010
As of the 1970s, state-sponsored museums created displays of traditional craftsmanship through life-size dioramas, such as the Dubai Museum or the Jewels and Costume Museum in Amman. Native American community centers, such as The Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut, have been using life-size dioramas since the late 1990s. They are also being reinterpreted by contemporary artists, as shown, for example, in the photographs of Hiroshi Sugimoto. In that perspective, the re-exhibition of dioramas would be a topic of interest. Finally, writing the history of dioramas today might also be a way to reframe the creation of artistic movements such at Surrealism or Dada, as well as the work of such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Edward Kienholz, and Joseph Cornel, by filling in important gaps in the history of art, and the history of installations.

An abstract of approximately 500 words and a brief CV should be sent to Noémie Etienne (netienne@getty.edu) and Nadia Radwan (nadia.radwan@ikg.unibe.ch) by May 31. Responses will be given by June 30. The colloquium will be held in English.


New Book | The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great

Posted in books by Editor on March 10, 2016

From Pegasus Books:

Susan Jaques, The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia (New York: Pegasus Books, 2016), 384 pages, ISBN: 978-1605989723, $21.

71mCLhHOMcLRuthless and passionate, Catherine the Great is singularly responsible for amassing one of the most awe-inspiring collections of art in the world and turning St. Petersburg in to a world wonder. The Empress of Art brings to life the creation of this captivating woman’s greatest legacy.

An art-oriented biography of the mighty Catherine the Great, who rose from seemingly innocuous beginnings to become one of the most powerful people in the world. A German princess who married a decadent and lazy Russian prince, Catherine mobilized support amongst the Russian nobles, playing off of her husband’s increasing corruption and abuse of power. She then staged a coup that ended with him being strangled with his own scarf in the halls of the palace, and she being crowned the Empress of Russia.

Intelligent and determined, Catherine modeled herself off of her grandfather in-law, Peter the Great, and sought to further modernize and westernize Russia. She believed that the best way to do this was through a ravenous acquisition of art, which Catherine often used as a form of diplomacy with other powers throughout Europe. She was a self-proclaimed “glutton for art” and she would be responsible for the creation of the Hermitage, one of the largest museums in the world, second only to the Louvre. Catherine also spearheaded the further expansion of St. Petersburg, and the magnificent architectural wonder the city became is largely her doing. There are few women in history more fascinating than Catherine the Great, and for the first time, Susan Jaques brings her to life through the prism of art.

Susan Jaques is a journalist specializing in art. She holds a BA in history from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA. She is the author of A Love for the Beautiful: Discovering America’s Hidden Art Museums and lives in Los Angeles, where she’s a gallery docent at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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