The Australian
Scholars blow the canon apart
Rosemary Sorensen
January 11, 2008

Article about the 32nd congress of CIHA will be held at the University of Melbourne. It will bring together more than 600 participants from a record 47 countries, a number convener Jaynie Anderson, professor of art history at the university, is proud of. It signals, even before the talking begins, that her theme – Crossing Cultures – has been recognised as the hot topic for art history at the beginning of the 21st century.

Quoted from the article:

In the early 20th century, Australian artist Margaret Preston was derided for her interest in Aboriginal art: that debate has been replaced by a more sophisticated discussion about the importance of recognising the context and meaning of art from different cultures. Different traditions now have a degree of equality, Morphy says, “which doesn’t destroy the difference between the art practices and it doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate what is common to them, but it means you must place the art in context”.

As an anthropologist, he would like art historians to learn to translate art in the same way as a language must be translated.

Anderson, an art historian steeped in the Italian Renaissance, is no less adamant about the need for a radically new approach.

“This conference is edgy,” she says, “I’ve been surprised that the political edginess of art history has not been exploited more.

“People think art history is not political, so there’s been very little political analysis.

“We want to make it a bit more inviting, a bit more exciting.”

Crossing Cultures: Conflict Migration Convergence, the 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art, will be held at the University of Melbourne, January 13-18.