Grand Challenges of Art History: Digital/Computational Methods and Social Art History

April 26–27, 2019

Scientists have become accustomed to using the phrase “Grand Challenges” to refer to the great unanswered questions in their field that represent promising frontiers of scholarship. This colloquium adopts the framework of the Grand Challenge to address the intersection of art history and the digital humanities, focusing in particular on how access to “big data” and computational approaches might enable us to reconsider the methods of social art history, with its methodological mandate to probe the interdependent relationship between art and society and to understand the mechanisms and contexts that created that relationship. Given that the social history of art is primarily concerned with the dynamic and symbiotic relationship between art and society, and that both art and society can be examined at both the micro and macro level, how might digital approaches—which facilitate both granular and large-scale analysis—allows us to examine that relationship? How might access to new data sets and modes of analysis concerning the production and reception of art impact our conception of that relationship and how it may be conveyed through art history, which has been primarily a narrative-based discipline focused on singular objects? Concomitantly, we seek to probe the data sets associated with digital art history and the methods of the digital humanities to ask how they support, or do not, our capacity to delve deeply into issues of class, gender, and race/ethnicity, as well as other modes of social organization, as they connect with and are illuminated by cultural expression and production. This colloquium takes up this Grand Challenge by bringing together both social art historians who are experienced in digital methods as well as those who are not or who are even skeptical of their efficacy to discuss practical, rigorous, archival, and theoretical ways of addressing such a challenge with both computational and analog means.

Program

WELCOMING REMARKS
Caroline Fowler, Interim Director, Research and Academic Program

INTRODUCTION
Anne Helmreich and Paul Jaskot

WHERE IS THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF ART TODAY?
Discussion Leaders: Barbara McCloskey and André Dombrowski

WHAT IS EVIDENCE/WHAT ARE DATA AND IMPLICATIONS THEREOF?
Discussion Leaders: Emily Pugh and Min Lee

WHAT DOES THE STRUCTURING AND STANDARDIZING OF DATA MEAN AND IMPLICATIONS THEREOF?
Discussion Leaders: Susan Gagliardi and Jacqueline Francis

WHAT DO COMPUTATIONAL METHODS CONTRIBUTE TO (SOCIAL) ART HISTORY?
Discussion Leaders: Koen Brosens and Niall Atkinson

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS WITH AND POSSIBILITIES OF DIGITAL ART HISTORY? [WORKING THROUGH DATASETS AND WEBSITES/EXAMPLES]

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS WITH AND POSSIBILITIES OF DIGITAL ART HISTORY II? [WORKING THROUGH DATASETS AND WEBSITES/EXAMPLES]

WHAT ARE THE (POSSIBILITIES AND LIMITS OF) RELATIONS OF DIGITAL ART HISTORY TO SOCIAL ART HISTORY?
Discussion Leaders: Hubertus Kohle and Jacqueline Francis

PUBLIC CONVERSATION
Discussion Leaders: Anne Helmreich and Paul Jaskot

Participants Included

Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago
Koenraad Brosens, Leuven University
André Dombrowski, University of Pennsylvania
Jacqueline Francis, California College of the Arts
Susan Gagliardi, Emory University
Anne Helmreich, Getty Research Institute (convener)
Paul Jaskot, Duke University (convener)
Hubertus Kohle, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Min Kyung Lee, Bryn Mawr College
Barbara McCloskey, University of Pittsburgh
Emily Pugh, Getty Research Institute
Blake Stimson, University of Illinois, Chicago