Globalizing Contemporary Art: The Art World's New Internationalism

By Lotte Philipsen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The art of old and new
internationalism

Before starting to analyze New Internationalism in itself, we need to understand more precisely what it challenges. Therefore, the first section of this chapter will investigate the problem(s) that New Internationalism has been seeking to solve.


The hegemony of Western art (history)

New Internationalism’s critical stance on the Western art institutional system and Western art history aims at an ethnocentricity that has already been described thoroughly. For instance, the problem is lucidly discussed by Robert S. Nelson in his 1997 article ‘The Map of Art History’, in which art institutional structures like the classical art historical library systems and the survey book are criticized.28 The fundamental art historical structure described by Nelson is indeed one of the things New Internationalism seeks to challenge: Namely the naturalization of Western modernity’s superiority as a fact that can be observed objectively in time and space.

The strength of Nelson’s article lies in its telling examples, which include the time-scheme from the famous survey of art history, H. W. Janson’s History of Art. The survey book gives the reader the impression of providing a thorough view of the history of world art – that is, covering the entire time-space schema – while in reality leaving out as much as it includes.

The problem with this time line is that non-Western regions are presented as if artistically they are stuck in the past. Whereas the Western top bar develops an increasing number of nuances as time approaches the present day – it ends in a stylistic myriad of ‘De Stijl’, ‘Abstract Expressionism’ and ‘Op Art’ among others – non-Western areas, such as India, China, and Japan simply

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