Through a Glass, Darkly: Screening the Art World

deadline for submissions: 
April 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Temenuga Trifonova
contact email: 

CFP: Through a Glass, Darkly: Screening the Art World (edited collection)


Most studies of cinema and the visual arts tend to privilege questions of medium specificity and intermediality. Philip Hayward’s edited volume Picture This: Media Representations of Visual Art and Artists (1988) was one of the first scholarly attempts to illuminate the ways in which films mediate the visual arts, specifically painting, photography, sculpture, and architecture. In Art and Artists on Screen (1993) John A. Walker analyzed representations of artists in a selection of films made between the 1930s and the 1980s, focusing on artist biopics in relation to issues of historical accuracy. Angela dalle Vacche’s Cinema and Painting: How Art Is Used in Film (1996) reframed the question of cinema’s relation to art by approaching the work of filmmakers like Minnelli, Antonioni, Rohmer, Goddard, Tarkovsky, Murnau and Mizoguchi as a kind of ‘meta-cinema’ that stages an encounter between cinema and painting. Along similar lines, in Art in the Cinematic Imagination (2006) art historian Susan Felleman underscored the self-reflexivity that the presence of art in cinema often gives rise to. Felleman’s later book, Real Objects in Unreal Situations: Modern Art in Fiction Films (2014), continued her preoccupation with art objects in fiction films and the ways in which their historical and political significance exceeds their narrative function. When art objects are screened, Felleman suggested, it is never as mere props. Kimberly Louagie, Jennifer Fisher, and Steven Jacobs have written short pieces on museums and art galleries in film. In Dark Galleries: A Museum Guide to Painted Portraits in Film Noir Gothic Melodramas and Ghost Stories of the 1940s and 1950s (2013), presented as a guide to an imaginary museum, Seven Jacobs and his collaborator Lisa Colpaert (curator at the Royal Belgian Film Archive) analyzed 1940s and 1950s films, in which a painted portrait plays an important part in the plot. Brigitte Peucker’s Incorporating Images: Film and the Rival Arts (1995), The Material Image: Art and the Real in Film (2007) and Aesthetic Spaces: The Place of Art in Film (2019), along with Steven Jacobs’s Framing Pictures: Film and the Visual Arts (2011), explored cinema’s anxious relationship to its rival arts, the conjunction of painterly and cinematic discourses, and the ‘tableaux vivants’ trope in cinema. Gillian McIver and Doris Berger have proposed a new way of looking at art history from the point of view of cinema: McIver’s Art History for Filmmakers (2016) traces cinematic techniques (from composition through color theory to lighting) back to key moments in the history of Western painting, drawing parallels between particular genres in painting and the work of filmmakers like Peter Greenaway, Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, Quentin Tarantino and Stan Douglas, while Berger’s Projected Art History: Biopics, Celebrity Culture, and the Popularizing of American Art (2014) examines cinema’s mediation of postwar American art history for mass consumption.


Recent studies of the relationship between cinema and art continue to be framed in terms of the ‘cinematic turn’ in art theory and practice: examples range from studies dealing with ‘expanded cinema’ and museum/museological cinema—e.g. Haidee Wasson’s Museum Movies (2005), Rinella Cere’s Museums of Cinema and Their Audience (Routledge, 2010), Expanded Cinema: Art, Performance, Film, ed. A.L. Rees (2011), Exhibiting the Movie Image, ed. François Bovier and Adeena Mey (2016)—to the work of artists like the London-based Jason Shulman, whose series of long-exposure photographs Photographs of Films condense entire films into single photographs, and Vugar Efendi’s impressive three-part Film Meets Art videos, which juxtapose classical paintings with iconic movie scenes. Departing from such studies of medium and institutional specificity, the present volume Through a Glass, Darkly: Screening the Art World is concerned with a more general question: what is the status of art and the art world in cinema, how has that status changed (or not), and how do we account for such historical fluctuations in cinema’s vision of the art world?


Even a cursory look at films featuring, or ‘about’, art reveals the great divide between artist biopics [e.g. The Moon and Sixpence (1942), The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), Caravaggio (1986), Camille Claudel (1988), Basquiat (1996), Artemisia (1997), Pollock (2000)], many of which tend to perpetuate the familiar myths of the suffering artist and/or the artist-as-genius, often attempting to incarnate the artist’s style in the form of the film itself [e.g. Loving Vincent (2017, Nightwatching (2007), The Mill and the Cross (2011)]—and films set partially or entirely in the art world, which regularly criticize or satirize its spoken and unspoken rules and its vulgar mercantilism. Could we perhaps read this duality as cinema’s attempt to exorcise its insecurities about its own status—straddling the art/entertainment divide—by simultaneously paying tribute to art while disavowing its own artistic credentials? If it is true that in a great number of films spanning different historical periods the art world is a site of inauthenticity, fakery, artificiality, what does this image of the art world reveal about cinema’s vision of itself and its own status under the conditions of advanced capitalism and neoliberalism.

Possible lines of inquiry include, but are not limited to:


* the status of art and the art world in film


* the spaces of art in film


* generic fluctuations in the representation of art and the art world, e.g. subgenres like the art heist films, art satires etc.


* the relationship between the historical reality/status of art dealers, art critics, and artists and its transformation in film for narrative (or other) purposes


* art and social capital; issues of value, taste, and class


* screening artistic truth, authenticity and aura


* screening art and gentrification


* intermediality, intericonicity, intertextuality


* studies of the production and reception of specific films set in the art world


* Marxist approaches to art in cinema


* various myths of art and the art world created and perpetuated by filmmakers


* films rewriting art history and theory


* the interconnections films draw between art, gender, race, and national identity


Note: Artist biopics are not central to this study. Although the volume will be devoted mostly to fiction films, proposals dealing with documentary films will also be considered. Finally, films can include not only those set entirely and explicitly in the art world but also those in which art and the spaces of art play an important role.


Preliminary filmography


Blackmail (Alfred Hitchcock, 1929)

Rome Express (Walter Forde, 1932)

Venus on Trial (Hans Zerlett, 1941)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Albert Lewin, 1945)

A Bucket of Blood (Roger Corman, 1959)

The Rebel (Robert Day, 1961)

Topkapi (Jules Dassin, 1964)

How to Steal a Million (William Wyler, 1966)

F for Fake (Orson Welles, 1973)

An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)

Still of the Night (Robert Benton, 1982)

Legal Eagles (Ivan Reitman,1986)

The Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, 1987)

La Ville Louvre (Nicolas Philibert, 1990)

The Object of Beauty (Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 1991)

Hudson Hawk (Michael Lehmann, 1991)

The Final Heist (Georg Mihalka, 1991)

Two If By Sea (Bill Bennett, 1996)

Stendhal Syndrome (Dario Argento, 1996)

Incognito (John Badham, 1997)

High Art (Lisa Cholodenko, 1998)

Entrapment (Jon Amiel, 1999)

The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999)

The Next Big Thing (P.J.Posner, 2001) 

The Good Thief (Neil Jordan, 2002)

Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, 2002)

Max (Menno Meyjes, 2002)

The Shape of Things (Neil LaBute 2003)

Stealing Rembrandt (Jannik Johansen, 2003)

Art Heist (Bryan Goeres, 2004)

Junebug (Phil Morrison, 2005)

Art School Confidential (Terry Zwigoff, 2006)

The Break-Up  (Peyton Reed, 2006)

The Da Vinci Code (Ron Howard, 2006)

Factory Girl (George Hickenlooper, 2006)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008)

(Untitled) (Jonathan Parker, 2009)

Boogie Woogie (Duncan Ward, 2009)

The Maiden Heist (Peter Hewitt, 2009)

Dorian Gray (Oliver Parker, 2009)

Headhunters (Morten Tyldum, 2011)

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2012)

Skyfall (Sam Mends, 2012)

The Best Offer (Giuseppe Tornatore, 2013)

Trance (Danny Boyle, 2013)

The Art of the Steal (Jonathan Sobol, 2013)

The Monuments Men (George Clooney, 2014)

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016)

A Moving Image (Shola Amoo, 2016)

The Meyerowitz Stories (Noah Baumbach, 2017)

The Square (Ruben Ostlund, 2017)

Blurred Lines (Barry Avrich, 2017)

Ocean’s 8 (Gary Ross, 2018)

The Burnt Orange Heresy (Giuseppe Capotondi, 2019)

The Last Vermeer (Dan Friedkin, 2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw (Dan Gilroy, 2019)


Please send a 300 word proposal + a short bio to before April 15, 2020. Acceptance notices will be sent out by April 30. Final essays will be due November 1, 2020.