Looking at Contemporary Art Through Eyes Trained on the Past

June 27–July 2, 2011

Fondation Hartung-Bergmann, Antibes, France

This workshop addressed the phenomenon of writers who have been known for their work on historically-distant periods who turned their attention to contemporary art. They discussed what this new combination meant for them and how it affects their writing on both old and recent art.


In order of discussion

Discussion: Trajectories

In this session, participants traced their own intellectual routes from writing on Old Masters to writing on contemporary artists.

  • Mieke Bal, Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), pp. 1-44.
  • Anne Wagner, "Warhol Paints History, or Race in America," Representations 55 (Summer 1996), pp. 98-119. Reprinted in Affirmative Action, M. Rogin and R. Post, eds. (New York: Zone Books, 1998); and “Nauman’s Body of Sculpture,” October 120 (Spring 2007), pp. 53–70.
  • Patricia Falguières, “Aire de jeu: à propos du théâtre et des arts au XXe siècle,” Les cahiers du Musée National d’Art moderne, 101 (2007), pp. 48-71.
  • Georges Didi-Huberman, “Before the Image, Before Time: The Sovereignty of Anachronism,” inBefore the Image, pp. 31-44.
  • Oskar Bätschmann, Ausstellungsskünstler. Kult und Karriere im modernen Kunstsystem, (Köln: DuMont, 1997) pp. 203-244, 279-284.

Discussion: Temporalities: Anachronism, Rupture, and Continuity

Are we engaged in seeing the differences of the past from the present, or their similarity? Both, clearly, but the various measures of transparency and opacity each has seem crucial. Is one drawn in responding to old or new, by what is like, or unlike its counter term? Attracted by what one knows and values in the one, so as to find it in the other?  Or knows and fears, for that matter? Here, the intentions of the writer are relevant--whereas when it comes to the work of art, the intention is lodged in the form of the work (here build in all the necessary hedges about what that form is, how we know it, how it might have changed, etc.).

  • Alexander Nagel, draft chapters from a new book, Medieval Modern, 39 pp.
  • Keith Moxey, “Mimesis and Iconoclasm,” Art History, vol. 32, no. 1 (February 2009), pp. 52-77.
  • Jean-Claude Lebensztein, “Passage: (note sur les idéologies de la première abstraction ,” Les Cahiers du musée national d’art moderne, 108 (2009), pp. 4-29.
  • Hubert Damisch, Judgment of Paris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), chapter 8.
  • Georges Didi-Huberman, Confronting images Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art(University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2004): preface and chapter 1.
  • Alex Nagel “The Afterlife of the Reliquary,” in Treasures of Heaven: Saint, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, eds. Martina Bagnoli, Holger A. Klein, C. Griffith Mann, and James Robinson (Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2010), pp. 211-22.
  • Georges Didi-Huberman, L’Image Survivante (Paris: Éditions du Minuit, Paradoxe, 2002), pp. 11-114.

Discussion: Method

If one is trained mostly in one area, how do you then go about working on modern art? This session based on paired readings by of the same author, one on old master art, one on modern art, sought to discover if the "voice", method, vocabulary, etc. differ.  Is there a specificity of the art critic vs. the art historian when dealing with modern art?  Do these distinctions make sense?

  • Leo Steinberg, “Observations in the Cerasi Chapel,” Art Bulletin 41 (1959): 183-190 and Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art (1972), (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007), pp. 17-54.
  • Daniel Arasse,  Léonard de Vinci: le rythme du monde, Paris, Hazan, pp. 9-13 ; Anselm Kiefer, Paris, Editions du Regard, 2007, pp. 19-22.
  • Claudia Cieri Via, “Léonard de Vinci et Anselm Kiefer : quelques réflexions à partir de Daniel Arasse,” in Daniel Arasse, historien de l’art/ INHA. Introd.: Danièle Cohn. Textes assemblés par Frédéric Cousinié, Paris, Les Éditions des Cendres, 2010, p. 241-255.
  • Oskar Bätschmann, Nicolas Poussin, Dialectics of Painting, (London: Reaktion Books, 1990), pp. 62-90; Ilya Kabakov installations 1983-2000, catalogue raisonné, I, (Düsseldorf : Richter, 2003, pp. TBD.
  • Michael Camille, "How New York Stole the Idea of Romanesque Art': Medieval, Modern and Postmodern in Meyer Schapiro." Oxford Art Journal 17 no. 1 (1994): 65-75.

Discussion: Lives of the Artist/Mixing Old and New

What are the issues and differences involved when it comes to writing about artists who are active interlocutors about their work, versus those who are long gone and present only as textual and visual traces? What about the catalogue of exhibitions mixing old and contemporary art? Do they entail a specific type of essays and writing? What type of discourse is expected/obtained from contemporary artists collaborating to this type of event, from curators and academics? What about contemporary artists working from Old masters?

  • Aruna D’Souza, “Measures of Difference,” in Rhea Anastas and Michael Brenson, eds., A Witness to Her Art: Art and writings by Adrian Piper, Mona Hatoum, Cady Noland, Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker, Daniela Rossell and Eau de Cologne, (Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, 2006), pp. 107-114.
  • Patricia Falguières, Bernard Frize, (Paris: Hazan, 1997), pp. TBD.

Additional Presentations:

Film by Teri Damisch, VADEMECUM: Luciano FABRO

Hubert Damisch presented a talk, L'Oeuvre et son double

Participants included

M.G. (Mieke) BalASCA/University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Annie ClaustresUniversité Lyon II-Louis Lumière Département d'histoire de l'art et d'archéologie, France
Hervé Coste de Champeron,  Fondation Hartung Bergman, Antibes, France
Hubert Damisch, Paris, France
Teri Wehn DamischParis, France
Xavier DourouxLe Consortium/Les presses du réel, Dijon, France
Aruna D'SouzaThe Clark
Patricia FalguièresÉcole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, France
Marianne GaillardUniversité Pierre Mendès France Grenoble 2
Daniela GalloUniversité Pierre Mendès France Grenoble 2
François Hers, Fondation Hartung Bergman, Antibes, France
Michael Ann Holly, the Clark
Keith MoxeyBarnard College and Columbia University
Alexander NagelInstitute of Fine Arts, New York University
Philippe SénéchalInstitut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Paris, France
Anne WagnerIndependent Scholar