In the past fifty years, the discipline of art history has undergone significant changes, becoming increasingly politically engaged. In 2001, the art historian Jonathan Harris described emerging objectives and methodologies contributing to social and political change as a radical “new art history”. Earlier connoisseurship approaches had been decisively surpassed, Harris argued, by an ever-growing array of methodologies that have since become common practice, including Marxist, semiotic, feminist, and deconstructive approaches. Since, social theories and critiques continue to evolve, and new approaches join the repertoire.
Polarisation, climate crisis, capitalist acceleration, resurgent transphobia, and homophobia make the need for a radical art history particularly pressing. For that reason, this reading group explores fresh perspectives within art history and criticism, acknowledging how art history continues to evolve.
Across four events we will explore the work of scholars and consider a “new art history” for the political struggles of this moment. By discussing the radical potential of these ideas, we aim to stimulate further expansion of art history as a critically engaged discipline.
Each event is dedicated to a different theme that presents complex questions, which should be addressed through open and nuanced discussion. To access each theme, we will be joined by a distinguished scholar whose work we will be discussing closely in a personal and informal setting.