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Art History and the Art of Description

10 September 2013

A conference organized in conjunction with the Mellon Research Initiative

October 4-5, 2013

Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
1 East 78th Street, New York City

This colloquium is designed for art historians, and art history as a discipline, to reflect on our own practice in massaging the object (visual or tangible, in two or three dimensions) into a form susceptible to argument and verbal analysis. This is a subtle, interpretative business but one that in general is taught and reflected upon too little. The particular thrust of an argument will have a significant effect on the words chosen and the structure of description used in making a work of art usable in the discussion. That raises a set of issues, ethical as well as aesthetic, art-critical as well as historical, methodological and intermedial, that remain both vibrant and urgent in our collective and individual practice. Notably, there are real problems about what is taken for granted as a collectively agreed set of starting points (these of course change with some speed through history). Likewise there is an interesting disjunction between a realm of seeing — which is what art-historical work in part celebrates and throws light on — and a realm of writing, which is what art historians do for a living when we are not teaching.

For the conference agenda click here.
This conference will be streamed live on this webpage.

Svetlana Alpers, Professor Emerita, History of Art Department, University of California – Berkeley
Leonard Barkan, Class of 1943 University Professor; Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
Thomas Crow, Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art, Institute of Fine Arts; Associate Provost for the Arts, New York University
Michael Fried, Professor, J. R. Herbert Boone Chair in the Humanities; Professor of Humanities and the History of Art, Johns Hopkins University
David Joselit, Professor of Art History, CUNY Graduate Center, New York
Alexander Nemerov, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University
Verity Platt, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, Cornell University
Dell Upton, Professor, Department of Art History, University of California – Los Angeles

With poster presentations by IFA students Joseph Ackley, Kara Fiedorek, Katerina Harris, Brett Lazer, and Ileana Selejan.

This conference is convened by Jas’ Elsner, Humfrey Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University and Visiting Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago

RSVP information:
This event is open to the public, but an RSVP is required. To make a reservation for this event, please click here. Your RSVP will apply to both days of the conference. Please note that seating in the Lecture Hall is on a first-come first-served basis with RSVP. A reservation does not guarantee a seat in the lecture hall. We will provide a simulcast in an adjacent room to accomodate overflow. 

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