On October 10, 2019, the exhibition Inspired by the East opened at the British Museum, which, according to its title, seeks to demonstrate how the ‘Islamic world’ influenced Western art. Besides a large number of paintings from the late 19th century, a few historical maps as well as objects of arts and craft are shown. The title, however, misleads the visitor: It is not an exhibition dedicated to the influence of the East on the West, but rather a show of orientalist art that presents an imaginary Orient from the perspective of the colonial West.
Perhaps the true appeal of what was once called “primitive art” lay not in its exoticism but in its apparent lack of historicity. For many European artists, as Meyer Schapiro perceived in 1937, the art of indigenous peoples had accrued “the special prestige of the timeless and instinctive, on the level of spontaneous animal activity, self-contained, unreflective, private, without dates and signatures, without origins or consequences except in the emotions.” The singular modernity of the avant-garde depended, in other words, on the correspondingly derelict nonmodernity of the primitive.
„Ubuntu“ als Möglichkeitsraum politischen Handelns für das Zukünftige? Über Felwine Sarrs „Afrotopia“
Ein kompromissloses Manifest ist Felwine Sarr mit dem Buch „Afrotopia“ gelungen, das 2016 erschien und seit diesem Jahr in deutscher und demnächst in englischer Übersetzung vorliegt. Fragt man sich, welche Leserschaft der Autor anspricht und vermutet aufgrund des vom Titel alludierten Themenhorizonts es adressiere allein diejenigen, die sich mit den Zukünften Afrikas befassen wollen, sei man zwar nicht enttäuscht, aber doch aufgefordert einige längere Blicke hinein zu werfen.
Aby Warburg: “Italienische Kunst und internationale Astrologie im Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara” (1912/1922)
The different modes that are brought together in this image may be summarized as “movement” and “stillness”, “tamed” and “untamed”, a central dialectic in the handling of falcons. On the one side, a hunting party is depicted with hooded and hence calm falcons, on the other a restless rider on horseback (note his garments, fluttering in motion), whose falcon almost flies away from his fist and is about to launch itself at the beholders of the artwork. Falcon and image are transformed here into a mirror of princes by shaping the courtiers’ actions and habitus.
“Dear Saxl”, Kenneth Clark writes on the 27 of July 1943 to the director of the Warburg Institute, “I have given away the original sets of photographs of the bronze effigies in Westminster Abbey”....
What set in motion the translocation of the Palace Museum collection before, during, and after WWII? Part of a nationwide debate, an essay by Lu Xun on the eve of the collection’s departure raises larger political questions.
It is surprisingly easy, cliché though it sounds, to get lost in Hampstead Heath, that large, hilly, and famously wild park in north London. And if you get just lost enough at just the right spot, you might not only forget where you are but also when you are. That is what Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, seems to have wanted when he left Kenwood, a large estate at the northern edge of the Heath, including a neoclassical mansion filled with a careful selection of 63 master paintings, to the nation upon his death in 1927. The Iveagh Bequest mandates that the collection be “preserved as a fine example of the artistic home of a gentleman of the eighteenth century” and so it has.
Designing the iconic London churches of the late 17th to early 18th century was a collaborative endeavor. As much as one might attribute broad conceptual sweeps to figures like Wren and Hawksmoor, like today’s phenomenon of the ‘Starchitect’, they had many designers working under them, producing some of what might be the most iconic aspects of the structures today. In its catalogue of the churchyard and miscellaneous Wren Office Drawings of the building, the archive at St. Paul’s attributes the plan for the building’s black and white paving to William Dickinson. Dickinson was one of many draughtsmen who worked under Wren, including Hawksmoor, but also others who rarely get the notice of history beyond a footnote in a Pevsner Guide or a stray short article.
In a lecture delivered at the Vienna Academy of Sciences in 1930, the classical archaeologist Emanuel Löwy (1857–1938) sought to excavate the “origins of art” in Greece. His earlier writings had traced the linear and isolated appearance of ancient figural representations to underlying “memory-pictures” that had been reproduced uncritically, before a new “physiological” sense of observation launched the birth of classical art. Similar to children’s drawings, as Löwy argued, at this stage man created images that were suggested by reality but essentially conjured from within the mind. His Vienna lecture probed these very same stylistic features, but on different premises. In this paper it is not the mechanics of the mind, but its irrational anxieties that mobilize objects against evil spirits and thus ultimately propel artistic change.
“Real Birds in Imagined Gardens”, arises out of Kavita Singh’s lecture titled, “Looking East, Looking West: Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe” as part of the Getty Research Institute Council’s lecture series, held at the Getty Centre in 2015. As outlined in the foreword, the book joins the rich stream of ongoing research ‘that transcends the traditional boundaries of Western art history.’ (p.vii). At the core of the volume, lies the endeavour to underline how Mughal painters enthusiastically received and responded to the arts of Europe. In addition, Singh also considers the interests, precedents and legacies of Mughal painting occasioned through the circulation of objects, ideas and individuals from Safavid Iran to Mughal India (Hindustan).
The “Museum of the Moon” is about the moon in the same way “Die Zauberflöte” is about a magic flute; it both is and it fundamentally isn’t. Luke Jerram’s work of public art, a giant glowing sphere with an 120dpi detail map of the moon on it to at 1:500,000 scale, is currently set in a blue-tinged exhibition hall at London’s Natural History Museum. It is perhaps the visual equivalent of a Singspiel. It is the kind of thing jaded critics won’t admit to liking in public, in virtue of it being almost too eminently likable and popular.
On 17th and 18th June 2019 the first workshop of the second round of the research group Bilderfahrzeuge took place at the Warburg Institute, London. Under the title “Image/Vessel” it dealt with the methodological and theoretical relation of two important topics of art historical research: image theory and thing theory. Based on the first text of the readings section of the workshop, The Case of the Case for Early Modern Objects and Images by Allison Stielau, we began with an examination of the relation between container and contained. In light of this essay and the ensuing discussion, I would like to present some central questions and reflections of the workshop.
In the spring of 1892, the young Aby Warburg impetuously abandoned what he saw as the “aestheticizing” excesses of art history to pursue a career in the hard science of medicine. In the end, his medical studies at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin lasted only a single semester; yet as would only become clear much later, this phase of study left a deep impression upon his thinking. Following the lectures of the psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus – a pioneer of the experimental study of recollection and forgetting – Warburg was initiated into the state of the art of contemporary neurological research, including the problem of cerebral localization.
Wie realisieren Museen heute ihre Ausstellungen, welche Displays, Formate der Vermittlung und textuellen Rahmungen wählen sie, um die Objekte und damit verbundenen Diskurse einem öffentlichen Publikum nahe zu bringen? Diese allgemeine aber ebenso grundlegende Frage stellt sich seitdem Objekte in privaten oder öffentlichen Institutionen präsentiert werden, unterliegt aber mehr denn je der Notwendigkeit einer umfassenden Reflektion – zumal in Zeiten einer kritischen Neuordnung der Institution Museum.
“Items of false news, in all the multiplicity of their forms – simple gossip, deceptions, legends – have filled the life of humanity. How are they born? From what elements do they take shape? How do they propagate themselves, gaining strength as they pass from mouth to mouth or writing to writing?” – In 1921, three years after the end of the First World War, the historian Marc Bloch posed these questions in his essay Reflections of an Historian on the False News of the War.