The Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is one of two annual distinguished lecture series at The Courtauld. This series was established in 1989, as a result of a bequest from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, in honour of Frank Davis, who was a critic for Country Life magazine. The bequest has allowed The Courtauld to invite internationally renowned scholars to come to the institute to speak about their work in a public forum.
2021-22: Exiles and Émigrés
Exiles and Émigrés will explore the ways art and art practices relate to issues of homeland, exile, diasporic identity, the ‘post-colonial’, the ‘decolonial’, critical thinking about performance, exhibiting, and museum displays. We are proud to be inviting speakers to talk about issues ranging from decolonising French museums to the curating of Sàmi art in the context of the Scandinavian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2022, performance and protest inside and outside of Iran to what it is like to be an Israeli artist based in London’s East End for many decades.
2021-22: Art History Futures: At the Junction of the Digital and Material Turns
This lecture series will present work from leading researchers who are using digital methods in art history and technical art history/conservation to think in new ways about our disciplines. It will explore how the digital and computational can be used to advance research and teaching at the Courtauld and in the field, and how new forms of data and digital methods are changing the questions art historians and conservators are asking by casting methodological and ethical concerns in a new light. Finally, it will highlight questions of issues of equity, access, collaboration, and community building that are raised through the often disparate networks of DAH, and which are also broader concerns of teaching and research in the contemporary university.
Many assume that the digital is somehow oppositional to the material, and that digital approaches risk alienating us from the objects of our enquiries. As such, The Courtauld, with its venerable tradition of materially-oriented scholarship, may seem like an odd fit for digital methodologies. This series will explore how the digital changes our relationship to the object—indeed, how it estranges us from the object in the literal sense of the word, making it once again strange or new, thereby opening new paths of enquiry to the researcher. With its true strengths in Conservation and innovative art history, the Courtauld is uniquely well-positioned to stage a discussion about forms of close looking and engagement enabled by the digital, often in very nuanced relationship with more “traditional” methodological approaches.
2021: Asian Art After Quarantine
The 2021 Frank Davis Memorial Series ‘Art in Quarantine: A Year On’ is organised by Dr Wenny Teo, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, there has been a surge in racist attacks against Asian and Asian diasporic people across the globe; from everyday microaggressions to the recent mass shootings in Atlanta, USA, in March 2021. Yet, international media coverage has continued to disproportionally focus on the ‘China threat’ instead of giving voice and visibility to Asian communities. In solidarity with social justice movements and organisations such as #iamnotavirus, Stop AAPI Hate and StopDiscriminAsian (SDA), the 2021 Frank Davis Lecture Series presents a series of dialogues and conversations centred on Chinese and British-Chinese diasporic artistic experience in a turbulent year marked by city-wide quarantines and isolation, a scarcity of funding and public platforms for the arts, the unmasking of institutional structures of racism and anti-Asian violence.
The Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1989 by the F M Kirby Foundation, in honour of Frank Davis, a critic for Country Life Magazine.
27th April 2021 Post from the First Lockdown
In our first Frank Davis Memorial Lecture of 2021 The Courtauld is thrilled to be joined by the team behind Post from The First Lockdown.
Post from the First Lockdown (www.lockdownpost.org) is an archive of artists’ responses to the first outbreak of Covid-19 from the Hubei region, from 7 February to the end of March 2020. This date, which was set in the open call since the beginning, uncannily corresponds to the end of the lockdown in China and the beginning of the lockdown in the UK. Almost a year after, with the UK still locked down, Gaia Fugazza, Luigi Galimberti and Sha Li will present this collection of works from over 30 artists. The talk will feature exclusive recorded interviews with some of the participating artists and a reading of the poem 一千零一 (One Thousand and One) by curator Boliang Shen.
Now online at: www.lockdownpost.org Info: email@example.com
Participating artists: Cang Xin, Chen Peifang, Chen Qiang, Chen Xi, Cui Yu, Deng Jianjin, Dong Mo, Fang He, Ge Yulu, Han Bo, Ji Xuefei, Jiang Cheng, Jin Haofan, Jin Jinghong, Juan Po, Ke Ming, Li Dann, Li JiKai, Li Jingxiong, Li Liao, Liu Xinyi, Lu Shan, Luo Kai, Luxi Liu, Ma Jun, Tan Tan, Wang Zhiyi, Wen Jing, Yang Fei, Yuan Han, Zhang Jing, Zhu Xu, Zi Jie.
Gaia Fugazza’s practice includes paintings and performance, exploring the troubled relationship of humans and the natural environment, plant knowledge, reproduction and transcendental practices. Fugazza completed an MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in 2014. She had solo and duo exhibitions at Gallleriapiú; Bologna, Haüsler Contemporary; Zurich, Zabludowicz Collection; London, Spazio Cabinet, Milano. Selected group shows include Royal Academy, Lisson Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, Baltic Triennial 13, Mimosa House, LUX; London. Fugazza regularly collaborates with other artists and curators to create alternative ways to present works such as the party My Night of Unlimited Favour and Grandine. Grandine is an independent non-profit program of exhibitions and events hosted by Gaia Fugazza’s studio in Hackney Wick, London. Focusing on the importance of collaborations and lightness, Grandine is a testing ground for urgent projects.
Luigi Galimberti is a Board Member of Res Artis, the largest network of artist residencies in the world. He currently manages one of the UK’s nine Creative Clusters at the University of the Arts London, having joined from Tate, where he previously held the position of Research Manager. From 2012 to 2016, he was Director of Transnational Dialogues, an exchange program for artists, architects, designers and writers across Brazil, China and several European countries. Luigi is the founder of ARTE PY, a project to support and promote the arts and creative industries in Paraguay.
Sha Li is an independent curator based in London, UK and Vancouver, Canada. She has worked at various institutions, exhibitions, and a series of curatorial projects in Vancouver, Beijing, Shanghai, London, Paris, and Copenhagen. Sha is interested in Asian perspectives on visual and digital culture. Her practices embrace open-endedness, creativity, collaboration, multi-disciplinary, process-based work, and participatory platform, fostering alternative dialogues and engaging with a wider audience and youth generations. Sha Li holds a MA of Curating Contemporary Art at Royal College of Art, London, UK, and a BFA of Film and Integrated Media at Emily Carr University of Arts + Design in Vancouver, Canada.
11th May 2021 In Conversation: Blueprints for the Otherwise
In this Frank Davis Memorial Lecture JJ Chan and Sunshine Wong will work through some ideas surrounding ‘critical care’ as an ethos for arts organisational infrastructure. Just over a year ago, JJ demanded ‘a radical reconfiguration of the artistic and curatorial conscience’, a call that was echoed in many variations as 2020 unfolded into global pandemic and unrest. Beyond institutional declarations of solidarity and Instagram black squares, what does this work actually involve? How does an organisational body ‘reconfigure’ itself? This conversation will describe the desires, aims and emergent processes of the 12-month residency programme Blueprints for the Otherwise. It will situate the speakers’ respective and collective positions in relation to the social and cultural events of the past year to pave the way for ‘critical care’ as an organisational ethos: ‘critical’ in the sense of urgency; ‘critical’ in the meaningful ways we nurture those around us.
JJ Chan is an artist working across and amid sculpture, moving image, and writing. Their work draws from lived experience and stories stolen from eavesdropped conversations to explore the edges of our realities in the constructions of our identities. Through storytelling and world-building, their work (re)searches for an alternative space beyond aggressively progressive capitalist time, seeking new worlds from the ashes of the present. At the foundations of their work and (re)search, is an investigation of portraiture and self-portraiture which seeks new cartographies of gender, identity, and collecting, that are sited at the boundaries between the authentic and the imaginary.
Sunshine Wong is an art worker, researcher and facilitator. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she was an art teacher there before relocating to Berlin where she completed her MA and curated art events as part of the 91mQ collective. Her doctoral research examined the ambivalences of social practice art through affect and embodiment. Current interests include artmaking infrastructures, critical care approaches, and co-vulnerabilities in times of contagion. She is Curator at Bloc Projects in Sheffield, Regional Editor (Yorkshire and Humberside) for Corridor 8, and irregularly convenes a “slow reading” group called TL;DR for anyone who has a complicated relationship with working in the arts
15th May 2021 Seecum Cheung: Artist Talk
This Frank Davis Memorial Lecture explores and celebrates the artistic work of Seecum Cheung. In this lecture we will trace Cheung’s long-term study of gentrification in Shenzhen, China, her father’s ancestral village. This work began in April 2018 with the evictions in Shenzhen that remain ongoing, mapping out the shifts, transitions, and implications of the pandemic on the work. Working chronologically, we additionally traverse the artists films prior to this work, in order to disentangle the political happenings of the time to contextualise Cheung’s practice in 2021.
Seecum Cheung is a visual artist and non-narrative documentary filmmaker. Her current work is an ongoing series of films based upon interviews and encounters with leading specialists in the field of right-wing radicalism, human rights and activist groups, politicians, and affected citizens. Recent films include extensive interviews on the rise of the far-right in Germany, with political journalist and writer Richard Cooke & SBS Public Broadcasters (Interview with Lennart, 2016); coverage of the Dutch elections with writer, musician, broadcaster and curator Morgan Quaintance (The Dutch Window, 2017); a study towards the inequalities found within cancer care treatment, for NHS England in collaboration with the human rights charity brap (Inequalities of BAME patients Cancer Care Study, 2018-19), and most recently, the gentrification and total eviction of local residents and business owners within Cheung’s ancestral family village in Hubei, Shenzhen (Eviction in Shenzhen, 2019-ongoing). She currently teaches at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.
2nd June 2021 Wuhan Punk: Chris Zhongtian Yuan
In this final Frank Davis Memorial Lecture The Courtauld is thrilled to be in conversation with artist Chris Zhongtian Yuan.
How do we reconstruct a piece of personal memory that’s so intertwined with the memory of a collective or community? How much can we trust memory rendered and interrogated by trauma, nostalgia, media frenzy and cultural imagination? Chris Zhongtian Yuan’s 2020 video Wuhan Punk explores the thin line between memory and imagination surrounding the disappearance of former member of Wuhan Punk band Si Dou Le and founder of Youth Autonomous Centre, who was active between mid 1990s and late 2000s in Wuhan, China. The film unfolds with a narrator muttering in Wuhan dialect under the narrator’s breath, often overlaid with intense, frictional sounds, searching for narratives, anecdotes and fascinations surrounding the musician. Combining archival materials with atmospheric CGI animation, Wuhan Punk commemorates and rewrites personal nostalgia for a rapidly changing metropolis, and the city’s rebellious and resistant temper. Weaving together personal memory, historical account, jokes, anecdotes, and music/video clips, the talk unfolds the making of the film, and retells brief history of Wuhan Punk movement, intertwined with personal memory of the city.
Chris Zhongtian Yuan will then be joined in conversation with En Khong Liang, followed by Q&A
Chris Zhongtian Yuan (b.1988, Wuhan) is an artist based in London. Guided by an immersive period of research and performative component, their recent video works have explored the hunting of a mutated species within the entangled web of ecology, human construction and migration, a musical medium’s supernatural channeling of colonial narratives, and the search of memory, resistance and nostalgia surrounding a disappeared Punk musician. These ephemeral sonic and narrative materials aim to rewrite and dismantle the archaic, oppressive power structures. Recent presentations include: Wuhan Punk, Hyper Functional, Ultra Healthy, Somerset House, London (2021); Wuhan Punk, 5th Documentary Exhibition of Fine Art Triennial, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan (2020); Wuhan Punk, Film & Video Umbrella, London (2020); Banal Objects, DIY Aesthetics, OCAT Institute, Beijing (2020); 1815, K11, Wuhan (2020); Counterfictions, York Art Gallery (2020); Counterfictions, Architectural Association (2019); Ghost Towers, Architectural Association (2018); City of Objects, Venice Architecture Biennale Greek Pavilion (2018) among others. Yuan is the recipient of 2020 Aesthetica Art Prize and OCAT Institute Research-based Curatorial Project Award.
En Liang Khong is an editor and writer. His work concerns the intersection of art and protest culture, exploring how social explosions influence cultural production, both inside as well as beyond the traditional artworld. He is currently Director at the arts and culture publication ArtReview, based in London. He was formerly Senior Editor of frieze magazine, and prior to that, a journalist at the investigative human-rights platform openDemocracy. He is a regular critic for the Financial Times and Times Literary Supplement. His writing has also been published in the New Statesman, Prospect and the Daily Telegraph, and his essays have been included in several book collections and catalogues, including The Two-Sided Lake (Liverpool University Press, 2016). Lectures and panel discussions include events hosted by the British Council, FT Weekend and the TLS. He has served as a juror for the Aesthetica Art Prize and Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grants. He took a first-class degree in Ancient and Modern History followed by a Master’s in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford, where he was awarded the C.V. Wedgwood and Gibbs Prizes, and the Oldham Scholarship for study at the British School at Rome. Prior to that, he studied cello at the Royal Northern College of Music, where he was awarded the Hirsch Prize for chamber music performance. He is a former BBC Young Composer of the Year.
2019: The Arts of Pre-Colonial Africa
The 2019 Frank Davis Memorial Series invites four distinguished speakers to share new research in African art before the continent-wide colonialisation of the nineteenth century. Looking at the African material on its own terms rather than in light of Europe while also allowing us to understand the intercontinental and wider networks: the ways in which its various kingdoms centred themselves and connected with cultural worlds beyond. These lectures vary in scope and in their methodological approaches and provide an opportunity for reevaluations of the history of African arts.
The Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1989 by the F M Kirby Foundation, in honour of Frank Davis, a critic for Country Life Magazine.
The 2019 Series was organised by Professor Sussan Babaie (The Courtauld) and Dr Scott Nethersole (The Courtauld).
Paper, Ink, Vodun, and the Inquisition: Tracing Power in the Early Modern Portuguese-Speaking Atlantic World
25th October 2019
Cécile Fromont – Associate Professor in the History of Art Department at Yale University
In 1730, the Inquisition of Lisbon arrested José Francisco, an enslaved man raised in West Africa, who had learned in Brazil the art and craft of making amulets known as bolsas de mandinga. In their composition, use, and afterlives in the Inquisition the bolsas reveal the deep and mutually transformative spiritual and material connections that the slave trade engendered between Europeans and Africans in the early modern Atlantic World. Created and used in parallel to similar objects made elsewhere on the continent, once deemed fetishes and now considered central to the canon of African art, they waged a spirited battle against the witchcraft of the slave trade.
Cécile Fromont is an associate professor in the history of art department at Yale University. Her writing and teaching focus on the visual, material, and religious culture of Africa and Latin America with a special emphasis on the early modern period (ca 1500-1800) and on the Portuguese-speaking Atlantic World.
Her first book, The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo was published in 2014 by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute for Early American History. It received the 2017 Arts Council of the African Studies Association Triennial Arnold Rubin Outstanding Book Award, was named the 2015 American Academy of Religion Best First Book in the History of Religions, the 2015 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions, an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Melville J. Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association, and won a College Art Association Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant. It has been translated into French by Les Presses du Réel in 2018.
She is the editor as well as a contributor to the 2019 volume Afro-Catholic Festivals in the Americas: Performance, Representation, and the Making of Black Atlantic Tradition published in the Africana Religion Series at Penn State University Press.
Her essays on African and Latin American art have appeared, among other venues, in the Colonial Latin American Review, African Arts, Anais do Museu Paulista, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics as well as various edited volumes and exhibition catalogues.
Support for her research and writing include grants and fellowships from the Centre for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Michigan Society of Fellows, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the Renaissance Society of America. She is a 2018 Rome Prize fellow of the American Academy in Rome.
The Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is one of two annual distinguished lecture series at The Courtauld. This series was established in 1989, as a result of a bequest from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, in honour of Frank Davis, who was a critic for Country Life magazine. The bequest has allowed The Courtauld to invite internationally renowned scholars to come to the institute to speak about their work in a public forum.
A Coptic Center in Medieval West Africa: Reframing Prester John and Early Global Trade
Tuesday 29th October 2019
Suzanne Preston Blier – Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
This paper explores the importance of new technologies in the art historical study of Medieval West Africa and how related methodologies both help us understand the important art and architectural landscape here in this period, and how Africa and the eastern Coptic Christian world helped to reshape Africa in this era. A key focus of this discussion are various art historically rich sites in West Africa (Ife, Hausa, Bornu, Mafa), in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad and how they may relate to the larger African European diaspora. At the same time this paper will also take up the importance of new technologies such as GIS, DNA, and geological analysis in addressing these and other issues are important to understanding the broader role that economy, trade, and religion have played in these and other contexts. This paper accordingly takes up the relative merit of new and older technologies in contexts where other data such as written resources are largely missing. While my focus is on medieval African art scholarship, the implications clearly are broader. I will argue that both quantitative and qualitative analysis can, in different contexts, offer unique insight into core art historical questions. Specifically, I will draw on vital differences in formal analysis, material analysis, GIS, DNA, environmental analysis.
Suzanne Preston Blier, Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University. Two of her articles appeared in Art Bulletin’s Centennial Anthology of top 33 art history articles from the last century. Her publications include, most recently, Picasso’s Demoiselles: The Untold Story of the Origins of a Modern Masterpiece (2019 Duke University Press). and Asen: Mémoires forgés à fer dans l’Art Vodun du Dahomey (2019 Geneva: Ides et Calendes). Other books include Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba (2015, 2016 Prose Prize in Art History and Criticism, African Vodun: Art, Psychology and Power (1995 Charles Rufus Morey Prize) and The Anatomy of Architecture: Ontology and Metaphor in Batammaliba Architectural Expression (1987, Arnold Rubin Prize), The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art (2017) with D. Bindman and H.L. Gates, Jr and the forthcoming 1325: How African Made the World Modern (Duke University Press 2021). Blier is past president of the College Art Association and is a member of the National Committee for the History of Art. She is also Chair of the International Advisory Committee, for WorldMap, an electronic interactive mapping datatabase.
Material Journeys: Mamluk Metalwork in West Africa
12th November 2019
Raymond Silverman – Professor, History of Art, African Studies, Museum Studies University of Michigan
Africa south of the Sahara has received little attention from scholars studying global exchange networks before what Abu-Lughod has referred to as the era of European hegemony. There is, however, compelling material evidence that Africa played a significant role in the world economy, especially during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This lecture considers a number of Mamluk (Syrio-Egyptian) brass bowls and basins that have been documented at various sites in what is now central Ghana and northern Nigeria. Their presence thousands of miles from where they were made raises a number of provocative questions. How, when and under what circumstances did these objects leave Egypt and arrive at the sites at which they are today located? What meaning and impact did they have in the societies that adopted them? And what can they tell us about transcultural dialogue in and beyond Africa prior to the arrival of Europe?
Raymond Silverman is the founding Director of the University of Michigan’s Museum Studies Program and serves on the faculties of History of Art and Afroamerican and African Studies. His research focuses on the visual practices, both historical and contemporary, of Ethiopia and Ghana and on museum and heritage discourse in Africa. Recently, Silverman has been exploring the material culture of precolonial West Africa, specifically the migration of objects as evidence of transcultural exchange. His publications include, Museum as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledges (2015), Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw (2005), Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity (1999), and the soon to be published, Painters, Patrons and Purveyors: Contemporary Art and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and National Museums in Africa: Reflections on Memory, Identity and the Politics of Heritage.
Emergent evacuations?: African women’s corporate bodies and art historical insight
19th November 2019
Ikem Stanley Okoye – Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Delaware
The contradictory logics of colonialism can be understood to have been anxiety-producing in relation to bodily sovereignty, most especially for African women. However, the colonial order also enabled a challenge from within, if one was sufficiently light-footed and adept at seizing its paradoxical claim to a certain ethics. Strategies exploiting the colonial state’s logical gaps were deployed by African women far earlier than imagined, judging by the experience of Adelina Wari, adult by the late 19th century, but completely unknown in the scholarship. Wari is present as a hitherto unnoticed trace in the colonial archive, against a contemporary dispossession and attempt at her erasure. In the name of eradicating slavery Wari was stripped of a customary inheritance in real property, and which may also have included her control of the bodies of others. In response, she evacuated earlier subjectivities for new ones, seeming to continuously reinvent herself in a tactics that evades discipline if not quite torture and incarceration. Following Wari’s subsequent appeal to the courts, the talk engages the colonial-era African imaginary in Adelina Wari’s mobile vicinities. These invoke questions about unfreedom, the possibility of freedom, and the body proper, as well as their visual and spatial entanglements with, and representations in various art media. The talk will also assert the relevance of such imaginaries for reading art elsewhere –as for instance in late twentieth-century art of Black British artist Sokari Douglas-Camp.
Ikem Stanley Okoye is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Delaware where he holds a joint appointment in the Africana Studies Department. Born in Nigeria, raised in part just outside Grays, Essex, he studied architecture and architectural studies at the Bartlett, University College London, before working for a PhD in History of Art and Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts. Okoye’s work currently focuses on the intersections of art, architecture and landscapes in Africa, leap-frogging from the present into the precolonial period era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade –all of which he sometimes describes as art’s complexity in the vicinity of “architecture”. Professor Okoye has received grant and fellowships over his career that have included the Canadian Centre for Architecture (a Mellon funded grant, 2019), the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Modern Oriental Institute, Berlin among others. Okoye’s work on the conjunctures of both African, American and European histories of art, architecture, photography and film, is published in several journals both traditional and digital, including the Art Bulletin; the Harvard Architectural Review; Interventions– a journal of Postcolonial Studies; RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics, and Critical Interventions, as well as in edited books and online platforms that have included African Mobilities –This is Not a Refugee Camp Exhibition (Mpho Matsipa, ed.); Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa (John Beardsley, ed.); Art History and Fetishism Abroad (Kersten Meincke and Gabriel Genge, eds.); Strangers, Diasporas, Exiles (Kobena Mercer [ed.]; and The Anthropologies of Art (Mariet Westermann, ed.). Okoye has served on the Editorial Board of the Art Bulletin and other journals, and on the advisory boards of many others. He has been the national Chair of the Association of African Studies Programs, a voluntary association of tertiary institutions in the United States with Programs or Departments focused on the study of all things Africa-related. Okoye has two books in progress, the one most likely to be published first (2020) being the title Hideous Architecture through Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden.
2018: Art History Decentered/Recentered
The 2018 Frank Davis Memorial Series invited four distinguished speakers to share research that addressed visual and material witnesses to colonialism, migration, and indigeneity. With lectures that ranged between the fifteenth century and the present, our speakers challenged conventional disciplinary, geographical and theoretical priorities, and invited reflection on the vital role that the history of art has to play in understanding local, national and global histories.
The 2018 Series was organised by Professor Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld)
Global Encounters and Art History, 1450-1750
8th October 2018
Dr Surekha Davies – The John Carter Brown Library
European artistic experience in the early modern period was a global one, inceasingly filled with peoples, things, materials, and memories from worlds beyond Europe. Yet the content, chronology, and structure of art history’s European canon has barely changed for the period. Attending to the global dimensions of early modern European artistic experience requires not merely the addition of new themes – such as cultural encounters, exchange, or collecting – or of specialists of extra-European art. Rather, attending fully to Europe’s global experience requires a fundamental reconceptualization of the objects, themes, methods, and questions by which the study of early modern European art takes place. This lecture uses cartography, collecting, and Netherlandish art to articulate three bodies of questions that highlight the limits of the traditional formulation of art history. It then suggests how re-orienting art history so as to foreground such themes opens up new opportunities for the field. The larger stakes of de-centring and re-centring early modern European art are the potential to re-found the discipline in ways that make legible and relevant wider applications of art history’s tools for close looking as well as the continuing relevance of works of ‘art’.
‘Dreaming has a Share in History’: Thinking Around Black British Art
15th October 2018
Dorothy Price – Director, Centre for Black Humanities, University of Bristol
This lecture will reflect on recent developments in Black British Art with a focus on the work of Lubaina Himid and other artists of her generation. Over the course of a career spanning several decades, Himid has produced an extraordinary body of work in a variety of media in which the primacy of painting has remained to the fore. The use of colour, installation and collage in a re-address to history, to art history, to monuments, to time, to memory and to visibility, amongst other themes, are central to Himid’s practices as an artist; a practice in which she wrests painting from its traditional function as an instrument for white western canon formation and re-deploys it in a dialogical relation to its origins. Such a Benjaminian concept of history – as a constellation between past, present and future in which re-interrogating the past in the present might produce the conditions for change in the future – is one of the enduring qualities of her artistic practice and will be explored further in this lecture as part of a wider reflection on the remapping of the boundaries of British art and diasporic engagements with legacies of modernism.
On the Spot! The African Contribution to Colonial Art in Early Modern French Empire
29th October 2018
Anne Lafont – Professor and Directrice d’études, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
This lecture will explore the ‘decentering’ of Art History by the artistic and visual material made by colonial artists in the French West Indies in the early modern period. These works testify to the encounters between Europeans and Africans (mostly) and, to a lesser extent, with indigenous people. This visual archive, ambiguous because of the European canonical and academic style used by artists in the making of it, enables us to access forms of African subjectivity, both enslaved and free ones. In this lecture, I will share a virtually unknown corpus of artworks (drawings, paintings, etchings) manufactured in situ – on the spot – and then I will examine them from the point of view of the colonial understanding of Africans’ lives, and try to understand how symbolic forms of African creation (from plastic art to carnivals) in a creole and colonial context could exist, to trace the transmission of these works from their creation to the present. From this perspective, images are instrumental to the writing of history.
Rethinking Image and Narrative at the Heart of Empire: Notes from Indigenous London
3rd December 2018
Professor Coll Thrush – Professor of History and Affiliate in Critical Indigenous Studies, University of British Columbia
Indigenous people have been travelling to London – willingly or otherwise – since 1502. They have come as captives and diplomats, missionaries and performers, activists and artists. Drawing on this long history of Indigenous engagement with the heart of empire, this talk places the visual record of Indigenous presence in London at the centre of the story. By reading English images of Indigenous visitors against the grain, grounded in Indigenous studies approaches, we can presence Indigeneity, both past and present, in urban spaces where that Indigeneity is assumed to be absent or at best doomed and anomalous. In addition to looking at the visual archive of Indigenous visitors, this talk will foreground those visitors’ own perspectives on and critiques of both London and its empire. The talk will also pay particular attention to Indigenous histories of the area around the Strand, offering an opportunity to think about the ways in which the Courtauld Institute itself is embedded in larger stories of empire, settler colonialism, and Indigenous resistance.
2017: It's a Riot!
In analyzing the constant change and renewal of cities, architectural and urban historians have predominantly taken the vantage point of the governing elites and looked at urban developments as manifestations of power. More attention needs to be paid to practices and visual manifestations of discontent, resistance and protest within the urban environment. The urban fabric is made of spaces defined by successive authorities as well as manifestations of resistance, both in the margins and in the centre of the city. Beyond propaganda and the visual and artistic language promoted by established authorities, beyond utopian discourses on imaginary cities, this series of lectures examines how representations of protest disrupt the notions of space produced by the elites. Iconoclasm, satire, graffiti, disruptive behaviour and sounds, provocative clothes or hairstyles reveal an urban geography marked by visible, if often ephemeral, acts of creative reaction against a given order and its symbols. Over the centuries and across national boundaries, “counter-cultures” have taken innumerable forms, ranging from collective actions to art, fashion and music. The speakers will look at such manifestations and ask how they shaped the urban space, inscribing it with dense webs of meaning. Marginal spaces, virtual or material boundaries, squares and markets offer potential venues for displaying an active reaction against the vision of orderly space promoted by the authorities. We hope this approach will encourage a fruitful encounter between art historians and architectural historians, cultural historians and anthropologists.
The 2017 Series was organised by Dr Guido Rebecchini (The Courtauld)and Professor Filippo De Vivo (Birkbeck, University of London)
Protest on the Piazza: Early Modern Revolts and a few later ones
9th October 2017
Professor Peter Burke – University of Cambridge
One consequence of the ‘spatial turn’ in history and the social sciences is a growing interest in the location of protest. In the 21st century, its location in squares is impossible to miss. Was this true in early modern Europe as well? The revolt of Naples in 1647 is an obvious example that springs to mind, since it began on Piazza Mercato. All the same, this lecture will argue that squares were less important in this respect than they became after 1789, because the repertoire of protest changed, from armed revolt to – more or less – non-violent demonstrations.
Peter Burke is Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College. He is currently working on the history of knowledge in both the early modern and late modern periods.
City walls, piazze, hoods, flags, and bells: The Topography of Late Medieval Protest
6th November 2017
Professor Samuel Cohn – University of Glasgow
Despite their prejudices and ideological objectives, contemporary chronicles and surviving illustrations from the late Middle Ages fail to support models drawn by historians and social scientists (George Rudé, Charles Tilly, James C. Scott and others). By their reckoning, modern ‘repertories’ of popular revolt have been large-scale, city-wide, organized in advance, and deliberately scheduled. These rely on complex networks of recruitment that extend beyond neighbourhoods and families. By contrast, popular protest before the nineteenth century was topographically and organizationally the opposite. By concentrating on images and words from contemporary chronicles, this lecture will investigate popular insurrection during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It will illustrate the ritualistic reliance on city-wide spaces and the importance of city-wide, even extramural, networks and organization by so-called ‘pre-modern’ rebels, who depended on visual and sonic devices for achieving their military and political objectives. That late medieval popular unrest was largely limited to neighbourhoods, parochially dependant on local groups, is a myth of twentieth-century social science. Even the French ‘Jacquerie’ of 1358 was not a ‘jacquerie’ as used in common parlance today: it was much more than an outburst of spontaneous, chaotic anger and violence.
Samuel Cohn is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow and a Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities (University of Edinburgh) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Over the past sixteen years, he has focused on the history of popular unrest in late medieval and early modern Europe and on the history of disease and medicine. He has just completed a three-year Leverhulme ‘Major Research Fellowship’. His last book was Popular Protest in Late Medieval English Towns, Cambridge University Press, 2013. Currently, Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS is in production (OUP).
From Graffiti to Riots: Contested Space in the Renaissance City
13th November 2017
Dr Maartje van Gelder – University of Amsterdam
Demonstrations, riots, and rebellions—but also graffiti, shouts, songs, and libellous placards—were part of a repertoire that the “disenfranchised masses” used to influence elite politics in the Renaissance and early modern city. Social historians have shown that premodern European political developments can no longer exclusively be attributed to a parade of kings, lords, and princes: ordinary people were integral to political dynamics. Yet remarkably enough Venice, one of Europe’s most densely populated, dynamic, and diverse cities, is missing from this narrative. In overviews of premodern urban revolts and political unrest, Venice is either left out or presented as the benchmark of stability. This lecture will ask why this reputation for stability continues to be so resilient.
This talk will focus on the most quintessential of Venetian spaces, Piazza San Marco: as Venice’s political and religious heart, the Piazza was the central space for governmental ritual. Protests during ceremonies have been deemed “largely incidental”, reinforcing Venice’s reputation for being immune to civic discord. Yet the Piazza was the ideal space for popular protests, ritual contestations, and riots. Although formally excluded from politics, this talk argues that ordinary Venetians used the Piazza’s public space to contest and influence elite politics.
Maartje van Gelder is lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Amsterdam. She is the co-founder and director of the Amsterdam Centre for Urban History. Her research focuses on the social history of early modern politics and diplomacy. Recent publications include a co-edited volume on Cross-Cultural Diplomacy and Diplomatic Intermediaries in the Early Modern Mediterranean (2015) and “The People’s Prince. Popular Politics in Early Modern Venice”, forthcoming in The Journal of Modern History.
Protest in Movement: Marching in the Modern City
27th November 2017
Professor Ilaria Favretto – Kingston University
Marches have long been a key tool of protest used by a wide range of movements on both Left and Right. This lecture will look at the symbolic and strategic functions of marches in modern and contemporary collective action, their representations and iconic status in the public imagination. It will ask why, in the era of social media and ‘clicktivism’, or activism confined to online participation from the security and comfort of your home, protest actors still resort en masse to this form of action. The lecture will also consider continuities and changes. Marches, particularly those staged by political actors such as the trade unions, used to be a very disciplined and militaresque affair. However, since the late 1960s they have increasingly turned into colourful, noisy and messy performances. Just to mention a few examples, students, feminists, environmentalists, the global justice movement, post-2008 anti-austerity protesters, have made ample use of symbols and repertoires drawn on the Carnival tradition and pre-modern folk protest rituals. How does one explain this? Why, particularly after 2008, has collective action re-emerged in ways that are concurrently new and, also, so old?
Ilaria Favretto is Professor of Contemporary European History within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University. Her research focuses on protest and social movements in modern and contemporary Europe. Recent publications include: Protest, Popular Culture and Tradition in Modern and Contemporary Western European History (co-edited with Xabier Itcaina, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, 2017) and ‘Rough Music and Factory Protest in post-1945 Italy’, Past and Present, vol 228, no.1, August 2015. She has recently been awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship and, from January 2018 she will be on research leave to complete a cultural history of industrial conflict in twentieth century Italy.
What Punk does to Art History / What Art History does to Punk
4th December 2017
Professor Eric de Chassey – Director, INHA Paris
In the second half of the 1970s, punk rock became widespread all over Europe, with sounds, but also images, clothes and attitudes. Based on a constant refusal to inscribe itself inside the artistic world, punk nevertheless soon became something to collect. Even if punk objects and images were usually valued as documents to a music scene, this collecting was like a first step in acquiring an artistic status. Only recently did it appear that there was such a thing as punk art as such, but that, to remain faithful to the spirit of the movement one had to consider art objects and images that were not meant to be and were particularly poor in regard of the material standards that obtain for traditional art history. Approaching punk art through art historical methods can be fruitful – but only if one takes into account the contradictions that this entails.
Éric de Chassey is director of the French National Institute of Art History (INHA) and professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at the École normale supérieure in Lyon, France. Between 2009 and 2015, he was Director of the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici. He has published extensively on the arts and visual culture from the 20th and 21st centuries as well as curated numerous exhibitions, in France and the rest of the world.
2016: Light and Darkness
The experience of light and darkness is central to all acts of vision, and informs the ways in which we represent, inhabit, and imagine the world. The 2016 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores the significance of light and darkness in making, viewing and thinking about visual and material cultures. Over five lectures, scholars and practitioners from different fields reflect on such issues as the potential and limits of light and darkness as artistic materials, and as a subject and method of enquiry for art historians; the significance of light or obscurity as social agents; the ritual functions and perceptual implications of darkness and luminosity in ceremonial settings; and the technical, aesthetic and methodological challenges of lighting design in environments for the display of art. Investigating the nexus between sensory, cultural and historical apprehension, these lectures expose how light and darkness affect bodily and intellectual experience, and contribute to a debate about their role in art history and related disciplines.
The 2016 Series was organised by Dr Tom Nickson (The Courtauld) and Dr Stefania Gerevini -(L. Bocconi University)
Light and colour; dark and shadow
11th October 2016
Professor Liz James – University of Sussex
Light and colour and the other side of the same coin, darkness and shadow, are all fundamental aspects of works of art in a practical way (can we see the work?), a formal fashion (what colours are used?) and conceptually (why these colours? Why this light or this lighting?). But they are also elements of the work of art that have tended to have a secondary place within the history of art. Through a discussion of Byzantine monumental mosaics, this lecture will consider some of the ways in which light, dark, colour and shade are all fundamental elements in the appearance, effectiveness and function of these images.
Liz James is Professor of Art History at the University of Sussex and a Byzantinist. She has been interested in light and colour for a long time, writing her doctoral thesis on colour in Byzantium. She has just finished writing a book about medieval mosaics (provisionally entitled ‘A short history of medieval mosaics’).
Solid Light, Dark Rooms
18th October 2016
Anthony McCall – Artist
Born St Paul’s Cray, England, in 1946. Lives and works in Manhattan.
McCall is known for his ‘solid-light’ installations, a series that he began in 1973 with “Line Describing a Cone,” in which a volumetric form composed of projected light slowly evolves in dark, three-dimensional space.
Occupying a space between sculpture, cinema and drawing, his work’s historical importance has been recognized in such exhibitions as “Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-77,” Whitney Museum of American Art (2001-2); “The Expanded Screen: Actions and Installations of the Sixties and Seventies,” Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna (2003-4); “The Expanded Eye,” Kunsthaus Zurich (2006); “Beyond Cinema: the Art of Projection,” Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2006-7); and “The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Projected Image,” Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC (2008).
Attuned illuminations: On the cultural practices of illuminating spaces
22nd November 2016
Dr Mikkel Bille – Roskilde University
Light does more than simply illuminate spaces. It fills them with a tone; a ‘something’ that may seize us emotionally as an atmosphere. The use of light to create such atmospheres is however not simply a matter of universal aesthetics. Light is entangled in notions of class, style, security, intimacy, even morality that are at the very core of cultural analysis. While light has often been approached in terms of effect on biology, individual sensory organs and psyche, there are important insights to be gained by looking at the social life that light takes part in. For instance, light holds a central place in religious metaphors, but it may also be a highly ritualized and habitual way of dealing with the perils and joys of everyday life. This lecture will explore how light takes part in marking time, space and atmospheres, by exploring cultural practices and meanings of illumination in all its varieties of glow, shadow, luminance, and darkness. From the home to the street, from the amusement park to the church, light matters.
Associate Professor at the Department of People and Technology, Roskilde University, with a PhD in anthropology, material culture studies, from University College London (2009). He is member of The Young Academy under the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. His current research centres on the cultural conceptualization and orchestrations of atmospheres through light in a time of energy saving technologies. Publications include articles such as Anthropology of Luminosity in Journal of Material Culture (2007), special issue of Emotion, Space and Society on ‘Staging Atmospheres’ (2015), and edited book Elements of Architecture (Routledge, 2016).
Searching for darkness: archaeological perspectives on cave use in prehistoric Ireland
29th November 2016
Dr Marion Dowd – I.T. Sligo
Throughout Irish prehistory human groups sought out caves for a variety of activities including burial, excarnation and as theatres in which to conduct religious rituals. Fundamental to all such rites was the interaction with darkness, whether focussed on the transition between the light outside and the darkness inside, or purposefully seeking out the deepest and darkest areas of caves. The changing boundaries between light and darkness was often perceived as symbolically significant, and marked with the construction of features or the deposition of human bones. Those areas of caves shrouded in complete blackness were used at times for ritual retreat and the placement of votive offerings. Entering the darkness of caves seems to have been a practice reserved for a very small number of individuals, journeys not appropriate for the general population. This lecture explores some of the ways prehistoric people interacted with and perceived caves – essentially containers of darkness.
Marion Dowd is Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland. She specialises in the archaeology of Irish caves, and is particularly interested in the use of caves as sacred spaces in prehistory. She has directed numerous cave excavations and cave research projects in Ireland over the past two decades, and has lectured and published widely on the subject. Her first book ‘The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland’ (Oxbow Books, 2015) won the Tratman Award 2015 and the Current Archaeology Book of the Year 2016 award. Her second book, co-edited with Robert Hensey, ‘The Archaeology of Darkness’ (Oxbow Books, 2016), explores human interactions with darkness.
Seeing art in the best light
13th December 2016
Dr Malcolm Innes – Edinburgh Napier University
For the majority of gallery visitors, sight is the principal sense through which we can experience artworks. To facilitate good vision we need good lighting and light is therefore an essential element of the gallery environment. But the very light that activates our vision can also damage the precious exhibits we wish to see. Exhibition lighting itself therefore embodies the classic dichotomy at the heart of the museum, the competing roles of preservation and display.
It is everyday parlance to talk about seeing things in the best light, but in the museum environment, what is the best light? Light is a remarkable medium that can subtly alter our view of an artwork. Small changes between light sources can make a sunset seem sad, a stormy sea look friendly and a rosy complexion look sallow. Given that these changes could be deliberate or accidental, how can we know what is the ‘right light’?
Examples of good and bad lighting exist in every museum and this talk will explore a wide range of light and shadow effects with the aid of live interactive examples. The presenter will also discuss the role that the art and science of exhibition lighting plays in revealing and concealing the artwork in our galleries and how good lighting can aid both the interpretation of an artwork whilst maintaining excellent conservation standards.
Malcolm Innes’ deep fascination with the perception of brightness at conservation light levels was born out of 20 years designing lighting for clients such as National Galleries of Scotland, National Museums of Scotland and the V&A. His empirical experience from many years of illuminating sensitive exhibits has shown that there is often a disconnect between light meter measurements and the human visual experience of low light environments.
Now, working as a Reader in Design at Edinburgh Napier University, Malcolm is exploring his practical experience of lighting museums through design led experiments and research projects including creative uses for digital projection.
2015: Art and Anthropology
The 2015 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series brings together anthropologists and art historians for a ‘conversation’ about art and about the ways in which their respective disciplines have addressed its theory, practice and history.
The series makes no pretence of definiteness; the aim is rather to find places of conjunction where discussion of such broad issues as time, matter and practice can occur in a way that is mutually illuminating.
The lectures of Professors Nicholas Thomas and Tim Ingold will consider the role that contemporary art can play in the future development of a hermeneutics of art respectively in the museum and the academy.
Professor Richard Fardon and Professors Caroline Van Eck and Stijn Bussels take something more like a case-studies approach: the subjects of the colour red and of the motif of the Medusa’s head are respectively explored in the context of absence and of the untamed, or wild.
Finally, time is the problematic investigated by Professor Chris Pinney and Dr Satish Padyar, in photography and painting: consideration is given to questions of synchronicity, pace and anachronism.
The 2015 Series was organised by Professor Katie Scott (The Courtauld)
A Critique of the Natural Artefact: Anthropology, Art and Museology
13th October 2015
Professor Nicholas Thomas – Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, studies of ‘primitive’ and ‘tribal’ arts were closely identified with museums and collecting; when the field re-emerged in the early 1970s it was inspired by ethnography and new theorisations of symbolic systems but relatively unconnected with the vast collections of Oceania, African and native American art in the galleries and stores of ethnography museums in Europe and elsewhere. The lecture reflects on the constitution of collections, and in particular on the artefact, proposing that the museum, in dialogue with contemporary art, again has the capacity to constitute a ‘method’, to empower interpretations of art objects and cross-cultural art histories.
Nicholas Thomas has written extensively on art, empire, and Pacific history, and curated exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, many in collaboration with contemporary artists. His early book, Entangled Objects (1991) influentially contributed to a revival of material culture studies; with Peter Brunt and other colleagues, he co-authored Art in Oceania: a new history (2012), which was awarded the Art Book Prize. Since 2006, he has been Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, which was shortlisted for the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year Prize in 2013.
From the Grotesque to Outsider Art: Where Does Art History Stop, and Anthropology Begin?
20th October 2015
Professor Caroline Van Eck – Centre for the Arts in Society, University of Leiden and Dr Stijn Bussels – Centre for the Arts in Society, University of Leiden
Grotesque figuration is a constantly recurring phenomenon in Western art. Because of their roots in ancient Greek Herms and Dionysian ritual, grotesques are intimately linked to both the origins of art and the frenzy that threatens to overturn civilization. In the early modern period they literally question and undermine artistic and aesthetic autonomy, because they offer what may be called a paratextual discourse of parerga in which the wild, the playful, the obscene and the threatening are acted out in grotesque figuration that is represented in a process of continuous transformation in the margins of ‘real’, autonomous art. By the late 18th century grotesques had lost much of their power to fascinate or terrify, to become the epitome of ornament in the sense of a parergon, without function or meaning except to frame and to decorate in the same way that earrings or pearl necklaces do.
In their lecture Caroline Van Eck and Stijn Bussels will use the grotesques designed by the Antwerp artist Cornelis Bos c.1550 to show that such art forms are very interesting to reflect on the relation between anthropology and art history. They enable us to question the Kantian doctrine of aesthetic autonomy, and to develop an anthropological model, in which grotesques, like other varieties of outsider art, are shown to function as apotropaic images, made to deal with the threats posed to a community by the exotic, the bestial or the supernatural.
Stijn Bussels is Lecturer of art and theatre history at the University of Leiden. There, he directs the ERC starting grant ‘Elevated Minds. The Sublime in the Public Arts in Seventeenth-Century Paris and Amsterdam’ (2013-2018). His publications include a monograph on sixteenth-century joyous entries, Rhetoric, Performance and Power (Amsterdam-New York, 2012) and a monograph on Roman theories on naturalism, vividness and divine power The Animated Image (Berlin and Leiden, 2012).
Caroline van Eck is Professor of Art and Architecture to 1800 at the University of Leiden. From 2006 to 2011 she directed the NWO/VICI program ‘Art, Agency and Living Presence’, in which anthropological and rhetorical approaches to the attribution of life to art works were combined. Recent publications include ‘Grotesque Figuration in Rubens’s Designs for the Pompa Introïtus Ferdinandi’, in: A. Knaap and M. Putnam (réd.), Rubens’ Pompa Introïtus Ferdinandi (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014); ‘Art Works that Refuse to Behave: Agency, Excess and Material Presence in Canova and Manet’, New Literary History, October 2015; and Art, Agency and Living Presence: From the Animated Image to the Excessive Object (Berlin and Leiden, 2015).
3rd November 2015
Professor Richard Fardon FBA – Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS
Richard Fardon will illustrate some propositions.
Many African languages have a parsimonious basic colour terminology, including Chamba, a Nigerian language and culture he has worked on intensively, from which he borrows some of his examples. Chamba colour terms can be translated approximately as black/white and red/green contrastive pairs. Given only four terms, Chamba red (as an African red) has to cover more than European red typically does.
Historic African symbolic systems draw on a colour triad (red/white/black) in relation both to ritual practice and to metaphoric expression. Of these three colour vehicles, ‘red’ transports the most ambiguous freight, notably through association with the shedding of blood.
As a natural environment, West Africa is brightly colourful: in relation to red birds, the fire finch and fire-crowned bishop speak for themselves, similarly flowers, berries […].
Few naturally occurring bright red materials lend themselves to ornament. Bird feathers are not so used as far as he is aware (a possibility demonstrated by Hawaiian feather garments), nor any bright coloured gem stones. This is not principled reluctance, bright red abrus seeds (abrus precatorius) encrust masks and figures.
Like other pre-industrial colourists, Africans found permanent, brilliant reds difficult to source. Vegetable and mineral reds – camwood or clay derived, or copper alloys – produce brown-red colours.
Also like other pre-industrial colourists, African consumers and artists over the long term were enthusiastic to acquire and use imported brightly coloured goods and tints.What might this juxtaposition of propositions tell us about the specific conditions under which a desire to amend absence is created?
Richard Fardon is a social anthropologist; his writings over the last thirty years have concerned anthropological theory or the ethnography of West Africa, or often the relationship between the two. Art has increasingly preoccupied his work of the last decade. This lecture draws some of its examples from: Column to Volume: formal innovation in Chamba statuary (with Christine Stelzig, Saffron Press 2005); Lela in Bali: history through ceremony in Cameroon (Berghahn 2006); Fusions: masquerades and thought-style east of the Niger-Benue confluence, West Africa (Saffron Press 2007); Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley (with Marla C. Berns & Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, The Fowler Museum at UCLA 2011); Tiger in an African Palace and other thoughts about identification and transformation (Langaa 2014). He is currently completing Learning from the Curse: Sembene’s Xala (drawn by Sènga la Rouge).
Ethnography is to Anthropology as Art History is to Arts Practice: A Provocation
10th November 2015
Professor Tim Ingold – Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen
There is much contemporary interest in the relation between contemporary art and ethnography, driven on both sides by a critique of the artistic and literary conventions, respectively, of the gallery and the book. Yet concerns have also been raised about whether the practices of art and ethnography can be successfully combined. These concerns have their roots in questions internal to each discipline, about the difference on the one hand between the practice and the history of art, and on the other between ethnography and anthropology. Tim Ingold will argue that ethnography’s affinities are with art history rather than art practice, and that precisely as practice differs from history in art, so anthropology differs from ethnography. He concludes that the speculative practice of anthropology with art, rather than the ethnographic and historical study of art, offers the best prospects for future inquiry.
Tim Ingold is Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. He has carried out fieldwork among Saami and Finnish people in Lapland, and has written on environment, technology and social organisation in the circumpolar North, on animals in human society, and on human ecology and evolutionary theory. His more recent work explores environmental perception and skilled practice. Ingold’s current interests lie in the interface between anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. His recent books include The Perception of the Environment (2000), Lines (2007), Being Alive (2011), Making (2013) and The Life of Lines (2015).
Fragonard and Time
1st December 2015
Dr Satish Padiyar – The Courtauld Institute of Art
This lecture is about the problem of time, and a certain artist’s measured response to it. Arguably, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) was a painter who was at odds with bourgeois late eighteenth-century notions of progressive time and historical and material progress. Satish Padiyar will be asking then, how does this artist mark time, and what is the time and the timing of his quasi-expressionist marks? What is the pace of a graphic and painterly practice which traverses, eventually, a new cultural notion of time as ‘revolutionary’ and Empire? This lecture seeks to inquire into the particular way with time in the distinctive oneiric and fast-paced world created by Fragonard.
Satish Padiyar is Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. He is the author of Chains. David, Canova and the Fall of the Public Hero in Postrevolutionary France, as well as numerous articles and essays on eighteenth and nineteenth-century art in Europe. He is currently writing a monograph on Jean-Honoré Fragonard for Reaktion Books.
Performance and De-synchronization: Opening the Past in Contemporary Indian Photography
8th December 2015
Professor Christopher Pinney – Department of Anthropology, University College London
“…in South Asia, though the future may not always look open, the past rarely looks closed”
Nandy’s observation about the productivity of the past provides a frame to position several contemporary photographic practitioners who have performed representations through diverse idioms which have recently been termed “postdating”. Approaching work by Pushpamala N, Waswo X. Waswo, Olivier Culmann, Gauri Gill, Suresh Punjabi, Naresh Bhatia and Cop Shiva this talk explores deliberately belated copies and strategies of de-synchronization which split open the past, exploring an “evasive” doubled time, in order to complicate the future.
Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. He is the author of Photography and Anthropology (Reaktion, 2011) and (together with the photographer Suresh Punjabi) Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (Tara Books 2013). He was awarded a Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2013.
2014: Courtauld Professorial Lectures
The 2014 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series, Courtauld Professorial Lectures, provides an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the quality research of some of The Courtauld’s distinguished professors, and will include explorations of early and contemporary examples of globalisation; the populist dimension of postmodernism; Diderot’s writings and their relationship to questions of materiality, portraiture and the interior; how technical examinations of paintings can inform art historical analysis; and an analysis of William Morris’ printed fabrics. Videos of the lectures are available to view below.
Elite Art in an Age of Populism
7th October 2014
Professor Julian Stallabrass – The Courtauld
Postmodernism was characterised by a strong strain of populism that celebrated the tastes of ordinary people. Venturi and his collaborators celebrated the architecture and urban fabric of Las Vegas, for example. There remains a powerful trend to a branded, populist art in contemporary art. Yet this is different from the earlier version because museums have had increasingly to commercialise themselves, collecting has become more instrumental (driven by investment) and internationalised, and art work is increasingly seen on social media and is subject to public comment. If modernism was attached to the technologies of production (cars, planes, ocean liners) and postmodernism to the technologies of reproduction (TV and video), the new populist stage may see a synthesis of the two in networked computer technology. The elite now frame rather than manufacture what is popular, and elite culture is eroded as a result.
Globalisation Before Globalisation: “Magiciens de la Terre”?
21st October 2014
Professor Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld)
2014 is a year of significant birthdays: the 25th anniversary of Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the 20th anniversary of Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever, originally a talk at The Courtauld Institute of Art which Sarah Wilson hosted. The 30th anniversary of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s Les Immatériaux at the Pompidou is celebrated one year early in Dusseldorf. Professorial lectures must look back and of course look forward. Looking back one notes the remarkable change in the modern and contemporary curriculum over the past decades as regards methods and theories as well as geographical expansions of The Courtauld’s remit and mission. And as an afficionado and disciple of the School of Paris , Sarah Wilson considers its hospitality and discourse for artists from all over the world, before as well as after 1989 as vitally contemporary, when artists such as André Fougeron, Claude Parent and Carlo Cruz Diez star in this year’s Liverpool Biennale together with younger generations. Her continuing networking and conference project, Globalisation before globalisation: academies, avant-gardes, revolutions, has political as well as artistic dimensions, extending from Paris to the world-wide Comintern network, to the forthcoming first Asian biennale (China: Guangzhou) and back to Barbara Kruger’s superlatively democratic message for Magiciens de la Terre in 1989.
Material Matters: Looking Through Paintings
4th November 2014
Professor Aviva Burnstock (The Courtauld)
Technical and material examination of paintings can reveal aspects of artistic process and practice and highlight how images have changed. Thus technical evidence can inform historical interpretation of works of art and influence decisions about conservation and display. The lecture will highlight examples of paintings where technical examination has yielded important evidence about making, history and condition, and cases where interpretation is key.
Interior Fictions: Dressing-gowns and Shipwrecks in Diderot’s ‘Regrets’
18th November 2014
Professor Katie Scott (The Courtauld)
The subject of this lecture is an essay or short story by Denis Diderot, Regrets sur ma vieille robe de chambre, sometimes considered a digression in his Salon 1769, and one of the rare pieces of his writing on art published during his lifetime. Held together by an ironic narrative on the subject of gift giving, the essay raises questions about materiality, portraiture and the interior of a methodological, evidential, and interpretative kind. What is the relation between the sitter and the material world? Can we use fiction to better our understanding of the discourses on portraiture and the interior by moving beyond simple questions of true or false? Is the notion of the accessory or attribute and its relation to the subject sufficiently complex to account for the semantic role played by material objects in portraiture? Can fictional worlds help in the reconstruction of experiences in the historical past?
We regret that a recording of Katie Scott’s lecture is not available.
Dyeing, Bleaching, Printing: Morris and Abundance
2nd December 2014
Professor Caroline Arscott (The Courtauld)
William Morris addressed themes of nature’s abundance and envisioned integrated social systems that would allow all to access plenty. His understanding of beauty was linked to these ideas about the natural world and social organisation. This lecture looks at the way that colour and dyestuffs in the Morris & Co. printed fabrics contribute to the aesthetic effect and can be understood to have social significance. It looks at the multi-colour printing methods that were developed in the Morris & Co workshops. The lecture considers the poetics of the indigo discharge process by making reference to allegorical allusions to dyeing, bleaching and printing in William Morris’s own late romance The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1897).
2013: Art and Vision Science
The 2013 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores the intersection between art and vision science. More than fifty years after Gombrich’s pioneering Art and Illusion, the science of perception remains, for the most part, marginal to art historical practice, despite extraordinary recent advances in our understanding of the visual brain. In this series of five international lectures, leading vision scientists and art historians argue the case for a new engagement between art and science, in which scientific models of vision inform the theories and approaches of art history. The complex dynamics of perception, unlocked by contemporary vision science, contain implications for the study of art that are only now being realised.
The 2013 Series was organised by Tim Satterthwaite and Dr Meredith A Brown
Part-Whole Relationships in Art and Vision 8 October 2013 Johan Wagemans (Professor, Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven])
Visual Insights: What Art Can Tell Us About the Brain 22 October 2013 Margaret Livingstone (Professor, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School)
The Beholder’s Gaze: What Do Our Eyes Do When We Look at Paintings? 5 November 2013 Raphael Rosenberg (Professor, Department of Art History, University of Vienna)
Engulfed and in Motion: Some Notes on the Phenomenon of Perception in Contemporary Installation Art 19 November 2013 Regine Rapp (Co-Director and Curator, Art Laboratory Berlin)
Double Echo: Exploring the Resonance Between Art and Science 3 December 2013 Chris Drury (artist, UK)
2012: Histories in Transition
The 2012 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores intersections between modernity and historicism worldwide. Spanning art, architecture and design across America, Europe and Asia from the nineteenth century to the present, each lecture demonstrates the allure and the value of the past in forming challenging responses to new circumstances. Interrogating the nature of revival, historicism and transnationalism, the series engages with nature and artifice, ritual and memory, and the flexible meanings of materials, images and structures that simultaneously inhabit traditional and innovative territory.
The 2012 Series was organised by Dr Ayla Lepine
Re-Inventing Landscape Traditions for the Present Tuesday 9 October Mark Cheetham (Professor, University of Toronto) and Mariele Neudecker (artist; and senior lecturer Bath Spa University)
Broken Pastoral and the English Folk: Art and Music in Britain, 1880-1914 Tuesday 23 October Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University)
Orientalism and “Islamophilia” Tuesday 20 November Rémi Labrusse (Professor, Université de Paris Ouest – Nanterre)
The Dead Object of Public Statuary: Sculptural Iconographies of Colonial and Postcolonial Calcutta Tuesday 27 November Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Director and Professor in History, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta)
Ryoanji Garden as the Epitome of Zen Culture: The Process of Transnational Canon Formation Tuesday 4 December Toshio Watanabe (Professor, University of the Arts London; and Director, Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation [TrAIN])
2011: Royal Manuscripts at the British Library
Two thousand manuscripts from the Old Royal library were presented to the British Museum by George II in 1757. About one hundred and fifty of the most richly illuminated will be displayed in a joint British Library/Courtauld Institute of Art exhibition, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination at the British Library from 11 November 2011 to 13 March 2012. Taking this extraordinary collection as their starting point, the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series for 2011 will explore aspects of the patronage, manufacture, function and collection of books in medieval England and France, and will provide a broad context for these precious survivors of the library of the kings and queens of England.
The 2011 Series was organised by Professor John Lowden (The Courtauld)
The Earliest English Royal Books 11 October 2011 Professor Richard Gameson (University of Durham)
The Library and the Architecture of the Book: Manuscripts in the Secular World from 1400 to 1650 25 October 2011 Dr John Goodall (Architectural Editor, Country Life)
Makers of Royal Manuscripts: Court Artists in France and the Netherlands 8 November 2011 Dr Catherine Reynolds (Christie’s)
Script as Image 22 November 2011 Professor Jeffrey Hamburger (Harvard University)
England and France: Royal Libraries in the Later Middle Ages 6 December 2011 Dr Jenny Stratford (Royal Holloway College/Institute of Historical Research)
2010: Resistance and Interpretation: Disciplinary Perspectives
This series proposes a range of ways of approaching the specific resistance found in objects of enquiry, calling attention to the ways in which contemporary scholarship attends to the conditions that set up resistances with respect to disciplinary investigation. Distinguished scholars from different disciplinary traditions are invited to consider how the notion of resistance is dealt with in their field of research and reflect on the ways in which material and cultural factors inhibit or disturb smooth assimilation of artefacts and cultural activities into theory and predetermined categories of interpretation.
The 2010 Series was organised by Dr Francesco Lucchini
Interpretation Through the Looking-Glass 12 October 2010 Miguel Tamen (Professor, Director of Programme in Literary Theory, University of Lisbon; and Regular Visiting Professor, University of Chicago)
Traditions of Resistance: The Case of History 26 October 2010 Peter Burke (Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Emmanuel College)
Art-Archaeology: The Materiality of Classical Art History 9 November 2010 Peter Stewart (Reader in Classical Art and its Heritage, and Acting Dean, The Courtauld Institute of Art)
Resisting Culture, Embracing Life: Anthropology Beyond Humanity 23 November 2010 Timothy Ingold (Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of the School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen)
Art History Unrealized 7 December 2010 Christopher Wood (Professor, Department of History of Art, Yale University)
2009: Globalisation and Contemporary Art
Contemporary art has been radically transformed by globalisation. Biennials sprang up across the world from Korea to Senegal to Brazil, showcasing globalised contemporary art, and inculcating its values in diverse local situations. At the same time, that art was altered as artists from the ‘developing world’, particularly China, India, Latin American and Sub-Saharan Africa, rose to prominence on the global art scene. While much of the art that first came out of that transformation propagandised the virtues of globalization, new tensions have emerged, from the ‘war on terror’ to the financial crisis, which have led to a strongly documentary and politicised turn in art. In this series, prominent art historians, artists and theorists will examine this striking new configuration.
The 2009 Series was organised by Dr Julian Stallabrass and Professor Malcolm Bull in conjunction with their Research Forum/Andrew W Mellon Foundation M.A. Special Option in the History of Art on ‘Aestheticising Politics? The Political in Globalised Contemporary Art’.
Video against Globalization 20 October 2009 T J Demos (Reader, University College London)
World Art and Art World 27 October 2009 Malcolm Bull (Research Forum/Andrew W Mellon Foundation MA Visiting Professor from Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford)
Performing Bare Life, Exploring Carceral Cultures 24 November 2009 Coco Fusco (interdisciplinary artist, writer and Director of Intermedia Initiatives, Parsons The New School for Design, New York)
Unconcerned But Not Indifferent 1 December 2009 Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (artists)
Everyday People 8 December 2009 Anne M Wagner (Class of 1936 Chair and Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, University of California, Berkeley)
2008: Writing Art History: Off the Page
The 2008 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series continues the Research Forum’s examination of ‘Writing Art History’, exploring various ways of constructing art historical narratives, and the changing roles of art historians, critics and writers. The theme for this autumn’s lectures is ‘Off the Page’, and the series will feature an exciting range of speakers who have themselves made art history through performance, exhibitions, the internet, and television.
Slitting Open the Kantian Eye 28 October 2008 Dr Charlie Gere (Reader in New Media Research and Director of the Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster University)
Performing Art History 11 November 2008 Andrea Fraser (Associate Professor, Department of Art, UCLA; and faculty, Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program)
Looking at Faces: Re-viewing Joshua Reynolds’ The Marlborough Family (1777-9) 18 November 2008 Professor Mark Hallett (Department of History of Art, University of York)
Broadcasting Medieval Culture 25 November 2008 Dr Alixe Bovey (School of History, University of Kent)
2007: Writing Art History
The 2007 Frank Davis series addressed the changing role of the art historian across historical periods, and considers how art history incorporates a range of writings on art, from the novelist to the critic to the philosopher.
Aesthetics, Identity and Art History 16 October 2007 Amelia Jones (Pilkington Chair and Professor of Art History and Visual Studies, University of Manchester)
Art and Non-Art: the Conditions of Modern Realism 23 October 2007 Alex Potts (Professor and Chair, Department of History of Art, University of Michigan)
The Revenge of the Spiritual Medieval Art History After Theory 27 November 2007 Paul Crossley (Professor, Classical/Byzantine/Medieval Section, Courtauld Institute of Art)
Alois Riegl and Classical Archaeology 4 December 2007 Jaś Elsner (Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow, Corpus Christi College, Oxford)
2006: Disciplines Unbound
‘Disciplines Unbound’ was a series of lectures about undoing. Four prominent historians, critics and theorists of art reflect upon aggression, transgression, protest, derision and writing itself as modes of undoing traditions, disciplines, categories, media and methods. Patriarchy, history, the academy and the art world will all come undone.
The 2006 Series was organised by Mignon Nixon and Shulamith Behr
Marlene McCarty’s ‘Murder Girls’ 17 October 2006 Maud Lavin (Professor, Visual and Critical Studies and Art History, Theory and Criticism, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
The Gestetner Revolution: The Hornsey Sit-In of 1968 7 November 2006 Lisa Tickner (Professor of Art History, Middlesex University)
Lawler’s Rude Museum 14 November 2006 Rosalyn Deutsche (Visiting Professor, Barnard College, New York)
The Sociological Image 5 December 2006 Janet Wolff (Professor of Performance, Screen and Visual Cultures, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research for the Arts (CIDRA), University of Manchester)
2005: Viewing time: artists on art and temporality
Artistic practices today engage time in a startling variety of modes. In these lectures, artists working in diverse media will talk about their own work and reflect on the ways in which art invites us to view time.
The 2005 Series was organised by Professor Paul Hills (The Courtauld)
1 November 2005 Jeremy Deller
8 November 2005 Jochen Gerz
22 November 2005 Richard Wentworth
29 November 2005 Timothy Hyman
13 December 2005 Cornelia Parker
The 2004 Series was organised by Deborah Cherry (Central St Martins College of Art and Design)
Pictures in the Chinese Encyclopaedia: Image, Category and Knowledge in Ming China 26 October 2004 Professor Craig Clunas (SOAS)
The Jesuit Infirmary Frescoes at S. Andrea al Quirinale in Rome: Traversing the Boundaries Between Catholic and Pagan, Real and Virtual 9 November 2004 Professor Gauvin Bailey (Clark University)
From Borders to Boundaries. Geography of Art in Post-1989 Europe 16 November 2004 Professor Piotr Piotrowski, Adama Mickiewicza University, Poznan
Inside Out: Anatomy, Medicine and the Boundaries of Nineteenth-Century Masculinity 23 November 2004 Professor Anthea Callen
The Moving Stare-Case: Velocities of the Image c.1900 30 November 2004 Professor Lynda Nead (Birkbeck College)
Sailing from Byzantium: A Greek Lectionary in Constantinople, Trebizond, Rome, and Florence 7 December 2004 Professor Robert Nelson (University of Chicago)
2003: Late Gothic in Europe: Connexions and Contrasts
The theme of the 2003 Frank Davis Memorial Lectures, lasting from October to December, was entitled ‘Late Gothic in Europe. Connexions and Contrasts’. It was timed to coincide with the major international exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from October 2003 to January 2004, ‘Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547’. The lectures were designed to offer a broad European perspective on English late Gothic art – hence their discussion of a variety of artistic media – including panel painting, stained glass and manuscript illumination – and their diversity of focus, from Burgundian court ceremonial to Christian-Jewish polemic, from English Perpendicular to the co-existence of Late Gothic and early Renaissance in Cracow.
The 2003 Series was organised by Professor Paul Crossley (The Courtauld)
‘Getting Medieval.’ The Making of the ‘Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547’ Exhibition 14 October 2003 Professor Richard Marks
The Impact of Burgundian Court Ceremonial and Habitus on Netherlandish Painting ca. 1450-1480 21 October 2003 Professor Robert Suckale
Fifteenth-century Stained Glass and Art at the Court of Charles VI and Charles VII. Stained Glass and the Other Arts: Resemblances and Dissimilarities 28 October 2003 Dr Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz
The Survival of the Thirteenth-Century Cathedral in Late Gothic Art 4 November 2003 Professor Peter Kurmann
Gothic and Non-Gothic in Fifteenth-Century Cracow: the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Wawel Cathedral 11 November 2003 Dr Robert Maniura
Body v. Book: the Trope of Visibility in Images of Christian-Jewish Polemic 18 November 2003 Professor Jeffrey Hamburger
England, Europe and the Art of the Book, c.1399 to c.1547 25 November 2003 Professor Jonathan Alexander
Grünewald and the Isenheim Altarpiece 2 December 2003 Professor Christian Heck
The Divinity School at Oxford and the Grand Narrative of Perpendicular Architecture| 9 December 2003 Dr Christopher Wilson