Upcoming Conferences and Lectures

Society for the History of Technology, Annual Conference, Sat., Oct. 28, 2-3:30 p.m.. Philadelphia:

Commentator: "Moving Beyond the Glass Case: Novel Engagements with Material Culture" (Organizer: Christopher McKenna, University of Oxford; Chair: Allison Marsh, University of South Carolina)

  • "Teaching with Artifacts to Understand the Global History of Trade (TAUGHT): An Ongoing Experiment at the University of Oxford" (Christopher McKenna, University of Oxford)
  • "Corporate Museums: A Look Beyond the Shop Window" (Anna Guagnini, University of Bologna)
  • "Extrapolating from Artifacts" (Joyce Bedi, Smithsonian Institution)

Lecture: “Active Objects: Rethinking Mobility, Geography, and the Museum,” Bard Graduate Center, Wed., Jan. 24, 12:15-1:15, 38 W. 86th St., New York City

Museums are static but the objects they contain are not, or were not, until accessioning rendered them museum pieces, markers on an art historical map of the world. Centering on objects that moved into and through Venice in the early modern period, this talk proposes some alternative means for thinking and talking about the geography of things. Rodini’s approach is both historical and museological. On the one hand, she revisits familiar textual sources to clarify how Venetians understood imported objects with regard to their origins and sites of production. On the other, she considers the challenges posed by museum spaces and the possibility of reanimating geographically constrained collections to tell complex, multi-faceted stories of the relationship of things to place. From these analytical and interpretive perspectives, mobility emerges not merely as a precursor to cultural meaning—evidenced in the borrowing of forms or the migration of motifs—but as a primary vector of meaning in its own right.


"Decolonizing Art Museums?"                                                                                                                                  

Session co-organized with Risham Majeed and Celka Straughn, College Art Association (Museum Committee), Annual Conference, February 14-17, 2018, Los Angeles

The colonial history of museums is by now familiar, and institutional critiques of and within ethnographic and anthropological collections are fairly widespread. Indeed, many of the objects in these collections have migrated to art museums as a result of postcolonial thinking. But what about the art museum? How do these institutions, their collections, and practices continue to extend colonial outlooks for art, perhaps silently, and what tools are being used to disrupt these both in the United States and abroad? This two-part panel explores what decolonization means for art museums and the ways decolonizing approaches can move the museum field toward greater inclusion, broader scholarly perspectives, and opportunities to redress structural inequities. Participants were invited to consider decolonization as it has and does impact collecting and archiving, modes of presentation, museum narratives and rhetoric, object interpretation and care, museum operations, and an understanding of “colonialism” that steps outside conventional definitions of this term. Working across historical scholarship, implementation, and activism, the panel explores what decolonized practices can and might look like in art museums. 

Performance, Protest, and Legacy: The Hampton University Folklore Pageant, Mallory Sharp Baskett, University of California, Santa Barbara

Displaying Asian Arts in a Whitened Context: Case Study of the Musée Guimet, Shuchen Wang, Jyväskylä Universit

The Lahore Museum Sikh Gallery: Art Works and Their Narratives, Nadhra Shahbaz Khan, Lahore University of Management Sciences

How, Now, Rothko? Decolonizing Abstraction’s Truth Claims (in an era of un-truths), Allan deSouza, University of California, Berkeley

No Walls in the Great Hall: “Infinite Blue” at the Brooklyn Museum, Susan Fisher, Brooklyn Museum

Booty/Beauty: Race and the Imperial Art of Primitive Accumulation, Sarita Echavez See, University of California, Riverside


Matters of Resemblance and Remembrance, between Istanbul and Venice

Session: “Travel, Diplomacy, and Networks of Global Exchange in the Early Modern Period,” Chair: Justina Spencer, College Art Association Annual Conference, February 14-17, 2018, Los Angeles

 Gentile Bellini’s journey to the court of Mehmed II as part of a diplomatic envoy from Venice (1479–80) is well known, as are the many discussions about the works he produced there and their artistic impact. His famous portrait of Sultan Mehmed (National Gallery, London) disappeared shortly after production, its trail lost for nearly 400 years. This paper will consider the resonance of that missing picture in two sixteenth-century contexts, the Ottoman and the North Italian. In Istanbul, envoys of Murad III (r. 1574–95), intent on developing new illustrated dynastic narratives, turned to Venice in their search for authoritative sultanic portraits. Though printed sources held sway, a set of illusionistic oil paintings was commissioned and sent east for consultation. This commission, and its ultimate lack of influence, begs questions about the reputation of Venetian painted portraiture and its perceived usefulness by the Ottomans. A few decades earlier, the Lombard historian, biographer, and collector Paolo Giovio—a key source for the Ottomans’ illustrated history—had validated his own portrait of Mehmed through an association with Bellini, though this relationship was apparently indirect. Elsewhere I have argued that the presumed veracity of Bellini’s picture must be rethought in terms of a multiplicity of functions at the time of its production. Here I extend that inquiry forward, considering how the reputation of Bellini and Venetian portraiture continued to resonate within a network of exchange that was actual, pictorial, and imagined—in the sixteenth century but also for art historians today.

Elizabeth Rodini