Exhibiting National Art Histories in Jeu de Paume Museum between the Wars
In 1983 Benedict Anderson insisted upon the foundational role that museums have played in the construction of imagined communities. To better grasp the mechanisms at work in the shaping of historical narratives of the nation as it takes place in the museum it is vital to cross-reference the history of nationalism with recent studies on cultural and artistic circulation. The latter have proved that national identities are inherently constructed at a transnational level. The question is, therefore : what happens to the historical narratives manufactured by national museums at a time when museums as such undergo a process of internationalization mediated by traveling exhibitions ?
My contribution will focus on a roster of exhibitions that were conceived by national museums in several European states in an attempt to provide a comprehensive survey of their country’s art historical tradition and which were hosted by the Paris Jeu de Paume between 1921and 1939 (exhibitions of Belgian, Swiss, Romanian, Dutch, Canadian, Austrian, Danish, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Latvian art). What was at stake for museum professionals in exhibiting their collections in Paris ? How did they set about constructing a narrative of national art specifically aimed at a foreign public abroad ? I will attempt to answer these questions by analyzing this distinctive group of exhibitions in terms of the construction of national stereotypes, both at the level of the material production, at the hands of foreign museums planning exhibitions abroad, and from the point of view of their reception by more or less specialized publics, beginning with the Parisian curators. I will attempt to show how these events contributed to establishing the centrality of Paris, and examine the international museum system as it was established in the first half of the twentieth century in terms of “centre” and “periphery”. My aim is to test the relevance of these categories for a transnational history of museums and patrimonial practices.
At the periphery of architectural history – looking at Eastern Europe
Although absent for a long time or only briefly mentioned for those examples fitting into the schemata, Eastern Europe has started to be integrated into the mainstream discourse of architectural history in the past few years. The reason of this inclusion is not only because of a certain globalization – both of the practice and of the academic discipline – but also because of recent mutations in the field of architectural historiography. The geopolitical changes triggered by the dismantling of the Communist bloc in 1989, the general regain of interest in Kunstgeographie (differently materialized according to the authors who reintroduced it), as well as the critical reassessment of the Modernist project, have altogether contributed to a restructuring of recent discourse of architectural historiography. However, in spite of renewed context, Eastern Europe still remains in the margins, both geographically – though globalization turned peripherality into a relative issue – and disciplinarily.
The paper will look at Eastern European architecture as an epitome of marginality, analyzing the tactics and strategies employed for gaining visibility. I will do so by following two parallel threads – the discourse of architectural historians and Eastern European architects’ own desire for visibility. Against a background of ideology and politics, I will thus explore three main narratives : modernization (and the obsession with western modernity) ; identity (a persistent issue in this area, first imposed and then instrumentalized) ; ‘ordinariness’ (the advent of the XXL scale of mass-housing, to paraphrase Koolhaas, and what appears as the amorphous production of the communist years) versus ‘extraordinariness’ (embodied in the architectural excesses from political commissions to the contemporary extravagances of the nouveaux riches).
By exploring these topics, I will be able to discuss the methodological contributions of historians working on Eastern Europe. The double peripherality of this territory requires, indeed, different methodologies and approaches – while these can turn into a source of further marginalization (by stigmatizing their object of study), they have meanwhile incontestably proposed a renewed vision of the architectural history as a discipline.
Mapping Art from the Global South – the Case of Nairobi and the Benefits of a Relational Approach to Peripheries
The notion of artistic periphery in Africa is not only a matter of description but also a very critical issue in the practices of the artists themselves. In 1991, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o expressed the postcolonial project “to move the centre from its assumed location in the West to a multiplicity of spheres in all the cultures of the world” in order to “correct the imbalances of the last four hundred years” (Ngugi, 1991, p.17-18). This was written in a context in which the Global South was indeed seldom represented in contemporary art circuits other than under the demeaning labels of primitivism and ethnicism. Since then, art made in Africa, particularly in the metropolitan context, has witnessed a substantial increase of attention coming from international art institutions. While many researchers have pointed out the deceitful nature of the globalization of art (Moulin, 2000 ; Quemin, 2002), this turn of events still challenges art topographies and the actual status of global art peripheries. The questions these events raise will be tackled by geographical tools. Having entered common geographical discourse since the eighties (Reynaud, 1981), the centre/periphery model suffers ambiguities that boil down to an understanding of both space and scale (Lévy, 2003 ; Grataloup 2004 ; Cattan, 2006). This paper argues that the conceptual couple of centre and periphery can still hold currency in an analytical perspective if the terms of the artistic space are specified. Studying the case of Nairobi, one of East Africa’s major metropolises, the objective is to define and illustrate two different conceptions of those key geographical concepts : one positional, the other relational. How does it affect our understanding of art peripheries if space and scale are conceived as a system of positions that are independent of the concerned objects, or if they only exist through their relation with the concerned actors ?
The Boundaries of Empires in Quest of an Artistic Center : the Case of Polish artists, 1890-1914
After the late 18th century the Partitions of Poland took place, where former Polish lands were split between three Empires : Russian, Austrian and Prussian, and was followed by a further century of territorial encroachment and the repeated uprisings of Polish freedom fighters. As a result, former political and cultural centers such as Warsaw, Cracow and Vilnius became merely peripheral towns in the new empires. By the end of the 19th century, these multi-national and multicultural territories were inhabited by Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Jews and others and produced a blossoming of artistic talent. Wandering from one town to another throughout Europe, these artists went in search of a centre worthy of their ambitions.
The aim of this paper will be to study the reasons, the directions and the strategies employed in this quest. We will use several individual case studies as well as a general analysis of the Polish community in Paris from 1890 to 1914.
The geography of Communist art after 1945 : other centralities, other universalities
This study addresses the question of so-called realistic artistic production in Communist countries—often considered marginal because this kind of creativity failed to correspond to the traditional definitions of art history and was made in peripheral regions—laying the east of the Iron Curtain. But in the context of the Cold War and the opposition between two dominant universal ideas—Capitalist and Communist—proponents of this realism attempted to implement a geography of alternative art, a geography in which this art would not be considered as peripheral.
In the vast and diverse geopolitical Communist milieu, other central places, platforms, and networks have also been developed. These are not merely traces of those existing in the West, but rather have been designed to follow the objectives of realistic art : to create an art that is close to the people and to the working class. It is this construction of a Communist universality, based on the relationship of local and daily experiences, which will be discussed here.
Beyond Kuwait : Mapping the Sultan Gallery of the 1970s
March 25, 1969 marked the opening of Kuwait’s Sultan Gallery, the first professional art gallery in the Arab Gulf. Founded by a young and dynamic brother and sister duo, Ghazi and Najat Sultan, the gallery, a personal initiative, had a mission to exhibit the work of “young modern Arab artists” and they operated in sync with the state led project of modernization spurred by the discovery and export of oil, and which accelerated after Kuwait’s independence in 1961. The country’s development and growth was characterized by a vision to situate itself in and support the Arab world. In parallel, the Sultan Gallery was a major player, though often forgotten today, in a small network of regional Arab art galleries of the 1960s and 1970s, spanning from Beirut to Rabat, while it also drew its artists from the Arab world and beyond : from studios, and interlocutors from London to Delhi, developing and contributing to the exhibition of Arab art beyond each artist’s home country. As the gallery introduced early career artists to a community hungry for culture, Sultan Gallery played a central role in the development of some of the earliest personal and institutional Arab art collections. The presentation will situate the Sultan Gallery in a regional and international network of artists and art spaces to map its influences and references in its establishment and early years.
Historical microspaces and methods towards horizontal art history. Swedish artists in Paris 1908-1925
This paper focuses on the cohort of Swedish artists in Paris from 1908-1925 through understanding the dualistic tension between the diversity of historical avant-garde microspaces, on the one hand, and the monosphericstructure of avant-garde culture in modernist art historical narrative on the other. The monosphericnature of the avant-garde within modernist art history is crucial in understanding simplistic notions of cultural transfer (like the presumption that cubism was brought from Paris to European “peripheries” through the mobility of young artists, or that any foreign artist traveling to Paris aimed at, and arrived at, absorbing avant-garde culture at the cafés of Montparnasse). Strategies for understanding Paris during these times as a site for diverse and complex spaces are called for.
The paper discusses a few methodological issues connected to the construction of identity and historical space in Paris as diverse and manifold, that is, understood not by a single explanatory model, whether national identity (“the German artists gathered at Café Dôme”) or religion (“the avant-garde in Paris were Jewish”), but on combinations of these and possibly other factors (e.g. belonging to a class, being queer, being related to a certain market or to a certain free academy) - with gender as an overarching category. Examples of micro spaces are the cubism/cubists presented in the Salons and the ones presented on the emerging private gallery market (David Cottington). These microspheres are at times transnational in nature, dependent on social or real “sub-economies”, reaching between center and periphery, or between peripheries, and therefore potentially important for the understanding of early avant-garde history as “horizontal” (Piotr Piotrowski). Preferably grounded in methods of geographical mapping, this undertaking could add potential tools like photographic documents, contemporary private verbal texts, etc.
The International Art Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine of 1978
The International Art Exhibition for Palestine opened on March 21st, 1978 in one of the underground floors of the Beirut Arab University, adjacent to one of the PLO’s chief quarters. Nearly two hundred works (paintings, lithographs and sculptures) were donated by one hundred and ninety-seven artists from thirty-one countries, an expression of support to the Palestinian revolution. To cite a few artists and their provenance : Julio LeParc, Antonio Seguì (Argentina), Ouanes Netto (Brazil), Roberto Matta, Enrique Zanartu (Chile), Cardenas (Cuba), Claude Lazar, Gérard Fromanger, Maurice Matieu (France), Peter Klasen, Barbara Rieder (Germany), Kathem Haidar, Dhia Azzawi, Ismael Fattah (Iraq), Carla Accardi, Ennio Calabria, Bruno Caruso, Paolo Ganna (Italy), Mohammad Mellihi, Hocine Miloud (Morocco), Tamam al-Akhal, Suleiman Mansour, Suleiman Mansour, Nasser Soumi, Vladimir Tamari (Palestine), Gerardo Chavez (Peru), Richard Stryets, Teresa Jakubowska, Stanislav Gal (Poland), Joan Mirò, Antoni Tapiès, Joan Rabascal (Spain), Cruz Diez (Venezuela).
The idea for this large-scale international exhibition was conceived as the first step towards the establishment of a museum of international art in solidarity with Palestine in exile. Its harbinger was Ezzeddin Qalaq, the PLO’s representative in France, a charismatic militant, and an intellectual and dreamer who believed in the power of art to interpellate the imaginary and change people’s consciousness of the world. He had drawn close to circles of radical leftists, unions, student associations and artists’ collectives. Qalaq was closest to the Jeune Peinture group. Inspired from his close acquaintance to militant Chilean artists exiled in Paris after the 1973 Pinochet coup, the idea for the museum was brought about from the creation of the Chileans’ Museum of Resistance in Exile in support of Salvador Allende. Qalaq was assassinated in Paris in August of 1978, and the building that housed the exhibition’s administration, and where the works were stored in Beirut was bombed to rubble during the 1982 Israeli invasion of the city.
Arte programmata : Italian Art in Former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s
In the Sixties and beginning of the Seventies, a series of exhibitions were held in the former Yugoslavia entitled Nove tendencije (New tendencies). A Constructivism revival arose and was understood in different ways. While in Italy it was dubbed “Arte programmata,” abroad it was known as “New tendency,” and in France as “Nouvelle tendance.” In the end of the Sixties, Nove tendencije involved three main transnational issues : first, there were international exchanges among artists coming from different European regions, Unites States, and the Soviet Union. Secondly, it happened in Yugoslavia – more precisely in Zagreb between 1961 and 1973 - in the specific political and geopolitical context of this nonaligned Confederation. Finally, those events showed that a real transnational scene could develop in an area supposedly situated in what was thought to be the utmost periphery of the international avant-gardes.
Towards a historical understanding of the ‘historic’ avant-garde : trans-national and inter-disciplinary considerations
How do we understand the process of the consolidation of the European avant-garde formation of the first third of the 20th century ? What was the position of Paris in this formation, and what was the role of Cubism in this process ? What assumptions have underpinned the received understanding of these, and should they be challenged ? If so, how ? This paper will consider these questions, comparing particularly the cultural avant-gardes of Paris and London at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the methodological issues raised by such comparisons.
"All the beauties of the world" : modernism, seen from twentieth-century Prague
Despite being at the forefront of European modernism during the first half of the twentieth century, Czech avant-gardes largely disappeared from the Anglophone art-historical record after 1945. That erasure has been partially redressed through a series of major exhibitions, key translations, and monograph publications on both sides of the Atlantic since the fall of communism in 1989. The problem today is no longer what we have forgotten, but how we remember. Focusing on Devětsil and the Czechoslovak Surrealist Group, I suggest that not only do we need to replace historically anachronistic East/West divides with an appreciation of the richness and density of the connections and interchanges between avant-gardes across the continent during the earlier part of the twentieth century. To do so requires us to rethink what defines modernism per se. I argue that Prague offers a different model of the relation between avant-gardes, the applied arts, and popular culture than that acknowledged in postwar Anglophone art history, and provides an alternative vantage point from which to question (and historically situate) the formalism of that tradition.
The German Century : Towards a Geopolitical Art History
Taking Michel Espagne’s work on Cultural Transfers, Christophe Charle’s serial and comparative approach to history, and Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann’s focus on the geo-history of art, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel and Catherine Dossin propose to write a geopolitical history of modern and contemporary art. The Geopolitical approach as they define it is grounded in the study of circulations and transfers, the distant reading of serial data, the interpretation of geo-historical context, and the analysis of case studies.
In this essay, they reflect on their respective work and show how a geopolitical approach not only challenges the modernist narrative of 19th and 20th century Western art, but also our understanding of the very structure and workings of the modern art world. Joyeux-Prunel and Dossin demonstrate that the artistic centers have never been as central and powerful as the literature presents them ; that the so-called peripheries are in fact the true agents and places of the modernist internationalization ; and that the domination of the artistic centers was the result of convoluted transfers involving adaptation, transformation, and even production-based mistakes. The Twentieth century can therefore be regarded as the German Century.
Ultimately, Joyeux-Prunel and Dossin argue for a geopolitical history of modernism that pays close attention to the interaction between artistic and social logics, and international problematics, because art exists in a continuous back and forth between the individual and the social, the local and the global, the national and the transnational.
Visualizing spaces, flows, agents and networks of the Art Markets in the 18th century : some methodological challenges
From 2008 to 2012, an international team of scholars has gathered around a research program entitled Art Markets in Europe 1300-1800, Emergence, Development, Networks. It has focused mainly on the movement and dynamics of the art markets of the Early Modern Age : Who were the agents of these movements ? What were its mechanisms and its impacts ? What kind of idea do we have of the numbers of pictures circulating at this time in Europe ? Through which channels and networks were they distributed ? What were the economic, social, and institutional contexts ? Answering these questions required the mobilization of a variety of factual data as well as the integration of heterogeneous, incomplete and scattered information that led the team to work out an experimental data visualization program. The aim of the latter is two-fold : to endow our results with a visual and synthetic dimension and, furthermore, to develop a number of innovative analytical tools that would help us renew our methods and give way to further research in the future.
The presentation of this experimental collaboration–still a work in progress—will focus on four topics involving different types of visualization techniques. Each of these has been adapted to specific information ranging from the general to the highly specific, from macro- to micro- approaches, and from histograms to photo-realistic visual rendering. These topics include
- Interactive mapping of paintings sold at public auctions in Northern European cities
- Relational mapping of art market-related criteria : different locations, geographic mobility, social networks
- Interactive mapping of the agents and places of the Parisian art market
- A three-dimensional reconstruction of the Pont Notre Dame, an important location for the Parisian art trade
Ultimately, this presentation will help layout the critical incentives behind these data visualization methods and, furthermore, will reflect upon their heuristic value as research tools in art historical studies.
How the analysis of artistic exchanges challenges categories. Some observations based on the research program “To Each His Own Reality.”
How can we reconstruct artistic relationships among four European countries, situated on both side of the Iron Curtain, during the period that commenced post-Stalin and lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall ? This is one of the questions that faces the research program To Each His Own Reality : The notion of the real in the art of France, West Germany, East Germany and Poland between 1960 and 1989, which was initiated in January 2011. It is based at the Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris and financed by the ERC-Starting Grant Programme. This project brings together a team of three research assistants, four Ph.D. students in art history and a postdoctoral researcher in aesthetics.
Research on primary sources includes artists’ papers, institutional archives and periodicals, and addresses both goals of the project : to analyze artistic relationships among the four countries and to verify the validity of the notion of the real/reality problematic in discourses on art between 1960 and 1989. But there exists no equivalence of context, nor of historiographies, and the archives are in very different states and differ in nature as well, in such a way that we have repeatedly discovered that no systematic protocol is sufficient to assess exchanges among the four countries. Systems and categories are distorted by a project that emphasizes singularity, specificity of interpretation.
Syntheses of the questions that we are facing, descriptions of our methodology, an analysis of preliminary results and what they allow us to measure, as well as what seems not to be measurable, will be discussed.
Borderlands : Mapping Early Modern Architecture in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
In this paper, Carolyn Guile discusses the architecture and visual culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s southeastern borderland from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. She argues that the integration of mapping and GIS technologies into art history provides a means of understanding multiple forms of influence, tradition, and customs as they relate to locale ; of interpreting the meaning of center and periphery ; and of defining visual expression that is a product of a historically, ethnically, and confessionally mixed population. The argument proceeds from the position that the borderland – in Polish, “kresy,” or “outer limits” — presents particular circumstances that directly affect the tone and pace of artistic enterprise and change ; architectural monuments and art objects drawn from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s southern and south-eastern territories are its primary sources. As a contribution to the sub-discipline of “artistic geography” within art history, this essay focuses on how cultural affinity and the circumstance of place generate and influence the variety and nature of architecture and arts of the region.
Historians trying to write a global or a social art history face the same question : how does one treat multiplicity and complexity in a comprehensive framework ?
Artl@s is a multidisciplinary project that promotes spatialization as a method of investigation and as the foundation of an innovative, analytical approach. Its goal is to contribute to what the French Annales School referred to as a “total” art history : writing a serial, transnational, geographical, and multiscale art history that would also address social issues. Artl@s relies on the spatial (digital) method to identify new sites of investigation, uncover unseen patterns of artistic circulation and distribution, open up different dialogues with artwork, dissolve the boundaries between art history and other disciplines, and rethink scholarship through a focus on learning by sharing. As such, it participates in the redefinition of the discipline of art history by embracing the theories and methods of the spatial, global, and digital turns that have challenged humanities over the past decades.
Concretely, Artl@s provides scholars with four interconnected digital environments : BasArt : a Post-GIS database, where they can store and share their data with other scholars ; Artl@s Worksite : a working space, where they can query BasArt and automatically generate maps and graphs ; Artl@s Website : a public interface that provides information on the project and its methodology ; and the Artl@s Bulletin, a scholarly journal devoted to the promotion of a Spatial (Digital) history. More information available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why an Art and Globalization Research Program at INHA ? And why me ?
In 2003, shortly after its creation and under the leadership of Jean-Marc Poinsot and Neil MacGregor, the Scientific Council of the INHA supported the idea of opening in France a research program entitled “art and architecture in globalization : colonial empires to the present day”. Several problems, questions and reserves immediately emerged : Who was to lead this program and to whom should it be addressed ? Due to the national nature dimension of the INHA, it was urgent to anticipate and support research by constituting bibliographic resources and non-Western scientific, artistic networks. The echoes of the European symposium "Arts and globalization : research, resources, networks," held at INHA in 2005, validate this new direction for research.
What distinguishes artistic globalization ? What were the conditions and resources that contribute to its genealogy ? Globalization has undermined the hierarchy of knowledge. It created practices of "counter-writing" [contre-écriture], a new ethical requirement. Has it changed our views on art ? Can this revisited modernity really be understood ? From these new requirements how to support research on artistic creation and internationalization, in its historical, sociological, critical, aesthetic, anthropological, economic and political dimensions ? Is such an ambition feasible ? What supports and resources would be needed ? This intervention will attempt to describe this history and answer these questions that are specific to art and globalization knowledge.
The Role of the Museums in the Decentering of the History of Art. Visit of the new display of the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou
In October 2013, the Musée national d’art moderne will present to the public, throughout its exhibition spaces (Level 5), a new display of its modern collections. Catherine Grenier, Deputy Director of the MNAM/CCI in charge of this new presentation, proposes a new reading of 20th century art history that restores the diversity of its “Multiple Modernities.” Through an open choice of artworks, the display will create a rebalancing of the different regions of the world, and will incorporate unknown or neglected artists and art forms to a global art history.
The decentering of Art History : a story of circulation and translation of texts
The relation of globalization to contemporary art history is often defined by a double change : one the one hand, a renewal of approach of the Art History discipline through geography and space, seen from a global perspective, and on the other hand, a fresh evaluation of the existing “stories of art” through a decentred perspective, articulated by the new positioning of the subject within a process of globalization.
One of the aims of the anthology Art et Mondialisation is to deal with the rise of identity politics lying at the heart of the development of a new cultural model. This project is fostered by the circulation and translation of texts, especially from the 1950s to the present time.
From Horizontal to Alter-Globalist Art History
The point of departure of my paper is the idea of a "horizontal art history," which I published some years ago. The horizontal approach of art history challenges the dominant geopolitical narrative of modernism, and its unilateral and hierarchical denomination of centers (points of diffusion) and peripheries (areas of reception). Its main objective is to see the production of modern art in a couple of "historical cuts," such as–for example–the late 1940s (beginning of the Cold War), 1968 (worldwide revolution), and 1989 (the end of the Cold War and a wake of "globalization"). The question I would like to raise right now, however, is how is art history, understood both as an academic and curatorial practices, able to take part in a global resistance movement called "alter-globalist," against political processes responsible for the present crisis of democracy in the world ?
Ten examples of encounters with alternate art historical practices
This is a continuation of the talk I gave at the Spaces of Arts conference (Purdue University) in 2012 that was an attempt to outline the principal unresolved problems about world art history, including definitions of “Western” and “non-Western” and statistics and maps about the spread of art history worldwide.
This talk expands on the last part of that talk. I have become convinced that the principal problem facing art history as it becomes a worldwide practice is how we pay attention to “minor” differences between art historical practices. People interested in world art history are still focused on the possibility of “new” discourses which would be significantly different from familiar ones—new continents of discourse that would result in a varied, heterogenous set of worldwide practices, full of interesting hybrids and outlying discourses. I do not think that is what’s happening. Instead I see art history departments everywhere trying to emulate western European and North American models.
The “minor” differences between an essay written at, say, Princeton, and an essay written at, say, the China National Academy, are matters of style, kind of argument, and mode of citation. We (collectively : art historians) need to find ways to understand and preserve those “minor” differences because they are the diversity the field currently possesses. I find that so far, those are the very differences that internationally active scholars seek to erase. This talk describes that process of erasure in ten recent cases.