october, 2017

24oct6:00 pm7:30 pmTHE LIMITS OF GLOBALIZATION IN ART HISTORY6:00 pm - 7:30 pm Event Organized By: Sydney Ideas

Event Details

Professor James Elkins Art History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Presented by the Power Institute for the Keir Lectures on Artseries


Gospel Book (detail)

Image credit: Gospel Book (detail), 1504 to 1505, Tempera on parchment, Leaf: 34.5 × 26.5 cm. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.


This lecture is not concerned with global art per se, but with the global writing of art history. Current initiatives supporting the international practice of art history, such as the Clark Art Institute’s Mellon Foundation-funded projects, are aimed at the exchange of information and the facilitation of travel and study. Such programs, Elkins argues, can promote a homogenised approach. In this lecture, Elkins challenges the assumption that there are traditions of art-historical scholarship different from those that are widely acknowledged, suggesting instead that scholarly practices exist, but not as art history as it is currently known; rather, they may appear in other forms, such as art criticism or as source documents.

According to Elkins, the real diversity in art-historical practices belies the incremental assessments of quality of research, argument, and choice of topic that commonly determine whether a text, or a scholar, is accepted in international venues.

This talk surveys that problem with special attention to the unacknowledged dissemination of European and North American models of art-historical writing (including the symposium and seminar formats, the institution of departments of art history, and the de facto definitions of the discipline) and the global use of principally western European theoretical models.


Professor James Elkins is Professor Art History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art What Painting Is, and Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles? Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology The Domain of ImagesOn Pictures and the Words That Fail Them, and some are about natural history How to Use Your Eyes. Recent books include What Photography Is, written against Roland Barthes’s Camera LucidaArtists with PhDs, second edition; and Art Critiques: A Guide, third edition.

James Elkins’ lecture is coordinated by the Power Institute as part of the Keir Lectures on Art series, supported by the Keir Foundation and presented in partnership with The University of Melbourne.


(Tuesday) 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


The Great Hall

The Quadrangle, University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW 2006


Sydney Ideassydney.ideas@sydney.edu.au