The Journal of Art Historiography 2012 Conference

  • 26-27 March 2012
  • University of Birmingham
  • After the ‘New Art History’


The term ‘new art history’ has long been an established – albeit contentious – part of the critical lexicon of the art historical discipline. Associated with the pioneering social and feminist art histories of T J Clark and Griselda Pollock of the 1970s (expanding in subsequent decades to encompass post-colonial, Freudian, post-Freudian and wider gender-studies approaches), it denoted a conceptual shift that foregrounded the dependence of intellectual inquiry on a priori ideological / political values.

In recent years such interlinking has been undermined in a number of ways. Embryonic discourses such as neuro-art history, environmental approaches to art and neo-Darwinian accounts have sought to create alternative ‘objective,’ ‘scientific’ and depoliticised paradigms of inquiry. On the other hand, it has been seen as insufficiently self-critical; for many proponents of visual studies its institutional success has led to a blunted vision, in which the value of basic categories, such as ‘art’ allegedly remain uninterrogated.

Finally, growing external political pressures on the Academy, which have been focused on instrumentalising art history, are potentially threatening to turn the discipline into a service industry for the market, stripping it of its force as a mode of radical social and cultural inquiry.

This conference will examine the state and futures of radical art history within this context. What has been gained for the discipline over the past 40 years, and what are the dangers for these gains in the present? What are the current challenges for radical art history, and how are they being met?