Art Disputes: Conflict and competition across the ages

Session Convenors:

Edward Payne (Durham University)

Bernadette Petti (The Bowes Museum)

Please email your paper proposal to the session convenors using the Paper Proposal Form


Disputes structure the history of art, practically, intellectually, and critically. Horace’s pairing of painting with poetry was preceded by Simonides’ declaration that painting is mute poetry, while poetry is spoken painting. The battle between the sister arts exploded in the renaissance and early modern periods, extending beyond the duality of words and images to encompass other forms of paragone. Painting and poetry, painting and sculpture, sight and touch, colour and line, ancients and moderns, idealism and naturalism, realism and romanticism: all provoked heated debate.

But art disputes also concern people, their lives and livelihoods, reputations and professions. Arguments over interpretations and attributions, valuations and questions of ownership, continue to prompt conversation and controversy. This session will examine disputes across the art world, intersecting with such disciplines as law, politics, and philosophy. Potential topics may include:

  • paragone: comparison, rivalry, and hierarchy of arts, genres, etc.
  • plagiarism: authority and authenticity (from the Domenichino–Agostino Carracci affair to the Orlan–Lady Gaga scandal)
  • territorialism: geographic, conceptual, and intellectual property divisions
  • provocation: art as challenge or conflict (caricature and parody, from Bernini to Banksy)
  • hand and mind: manual craft versus mental skill (artists legitimising their profession, from the disegno–colore debate to the David Hockney–Damien Hirst dispute)
  • insiders and outsiders of the art world
  • competition and collaboration: productive and destructive practices (‘correcting’ or defacing artworks)
  • canon-building and busting: canonical versus non-canonical art and artists (Pacheco’s erasure of Zurbarán, Ruskin’s ‘editing’ of Turner)
  • artists versus critics (Vasari–Titian; Zola–Cézanne; Greenberg–Johns / Rauschenberg)
  • playing the game: following the rules or cheating the system

Submit a paper

Please email your paper proposals direct to the session convenors above, using the Paper Proposal Form

You need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media and in the printed programme.

You should receive an acknowledgement receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenors.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 21 October 2019

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