Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Beyond 'The Two Art Histories'

Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Beyond 'The Two Art Histories'

Article excerpt

In 1999 I organised a two-day conference, 'The Two Art Histories: The Museum and the University,' held at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The published papers, which appeared in book form in 2002, generated considerable interest, particularly among museum curators, and spawned further discussions of the topic at several conferences. One of these was a half-day symposium held in October 2005 at the Institute of Art and De- sign, University of Tsukuba, in Japan, to which I was invited to speak, along with art histo- riansfrom Japan and South Korea. The paper I presented there was published in the conference proceedings, but has found little distribution outside of Japan.1 Because the topic continues to be relevant, Richard Woodfield kindly proposed that I publish it here so that it might reach a wider readership. - CWH

Before I begin I wish to thank the Institute of Art and Design at the University of Tsukuba for its generous invitation to participate in this symposium on the two art histories. I am flattered and deeply honoured that the book based on the conference 'The Two Art Histories' has awakened interest in Japan.2 The conference that was held at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in April 1999 I con- ceived as a forum to examine relations between the museum art historian and the university art historian in three countries-Britain, Germany, and the United States. I wanted to see whether the tensions between these two branches of the discipline that were so evident in America also existed in other countries. Did university art histo- rians and museum art historians have a different kind of interrelationship in Britain, in Germany? And if they did, was it a result of different national traditions of pro- fessional training and institutional funding and governance? We thought it best to focus on no more than three countries, and to have both academics and museum professionals from each of them. We had four authors from Germany, five from the United Kingdom, and seven from the United States. The very fact that this sympo- sium is being held today suggests that this issue is not limited to Europe and North America but extends at least to Japan and South Korea as well. I look forward with anticipation to hearing today's papers and expanding my own perspective on this phenomenon.

In my own paper, I will briefly provide some background on the conference 'The Two Art Histories: The Museum and The University.' I shall then offer some thoughts on possible steps that might lead to more productive mutual cooperation between the museum and the university as well as impediments to such a salutary development.

My interest in this topic has partly autobiographical origins. I have worked in both art histories, and I did so simultaneously. From 1975 to 1983 I had a split ap- pointment as assistant professor, then as associate professor of art history and cura- tor at Harvard University. I was the sole curator in what was then one of Harvard's two art museums, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, which was dedicated to central and northern European art with a concentration in the art of Germany and special strengths in the twentieth century. As a professor I gave lectures and taught semi- nars in my specialty, while as a curator I organised exhibitions, mostly from the permanent collection, which I frequently used in teaching-this was probably what I loved most about my job, and what I missed most after I left Harvard. But of course making exhibitions was only one part of my job. There were also considerable ad- ministrative and fundraising demands that went with it, and these made scholarship difficult. The museum, like all other Harvard museums, was financially self-supporting and had a major shortage of operating funds. An important part of my responsibilities as curator was therefore to find and to cultivate potential sup- porters in both Germany and the United States.

My conference on the 'Two Art Histories' did not take place until sixteen years after I left Harvard, but it had its origins in experiences that I had during my time there. …

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