AAH New Voices: Art and its Hierarchies. University of Nottingham, UK. November 24th 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Association of Art Historians

"Good order is the foundation of all good things" Edmund Burke, 1790

This one-day postgraduate conference will question the inherent or constructed hierarchical systems that have informed how we engage with art.

Historically, hierarchical thinking has shaped knowledge about art and artists, from the priorities of the arts laid out by Plato and Aristotle to the cyclical, systemic approaches of Ghiberti and Vasari. In accordance with the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, artistic practice and education became more formalised during the eighteenth century. Academies began to emerge throughout Europe that promoted a new set of criteria for classifying and assessing artistic importance. Established purveyors of taste attached value to specific styles, subjects and media, as well as to the gender, cultural, social, economic and geographical background of the artist. Art historians, collectors and writers too were implicated in, and contributed to, such processes of compartmentalisation.

The nineteenth century witnessed a reaction against these strict Academic rules in favour of a more individualistic approach to art practice. However, new hierarchical systems replaced old ones; an emphasis on originality militated against the appreciation of paintings that were part of a larger artistic tradition.

The twentieth century was characterised by profound political and social upheaval, along with geographical movement and cultural contestation that took the the forms of war, migration and new economies of exchange. These changes instigated in artists and cultural commentators a renewed awareness of the risks of hierarchical thinking. At the same time, paradoxically, existing hierarchies and value systems became re-entrenched in modernist practices, which some contemporary artists, art historians and curators continue to negotiate today.

We welcome contributions that address the issues and questions outlined above or explore new critical positions. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• The order of the genres (history, portraiture, landscape, etc.)
• Hierarchies and constructions of gender, age, race, disability, sexuality
• Modes of writing: history, criticism, theory, comment and blogging
• Taste, value judgement and connoisseurship
• Taxonomies of collecting/collections
• Authorship and audience
• Geographical hierarchies
• Cultures of display (fairs, exhibitions and festivals)
• Style, expression and art practice
• Economic and social hierarchies

Papers should be 20 minutes in length. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted along with a CV to Mary Jane Boland, Sibyl Fisher and Alasdair Flint at artanditshierarchies@gmail.com by 8 October 2012.

Submissions are open to AAH members only