writing between-275h

Writing between the Lines: Art and Its Historians

27-28 March 2009
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec

An international graduate conference investigating the roles, opportunities and quandaries of those involved in the writing of art history.


Taking as a starting point the idea that the author is present in the art historical text – both literally, as the narrator of art’s story, and figuratively, as a culturally and historically-bound subject acting “behind” the text ­– this conference seeks to ask the following questions: In what way do the culture, gender, or social standing of the art historian inflect an understanding and recording of the art discussed? Historically, how have certain prominent authors influenced both the course of art history and the way it has been written? What social, political, and economic determinations affect who writes art history? Is the work of the art historian on the same plane as that of the artist? Is self-reflexivity a necessary component of art historical writing today? How is the idea of the art historian being transformed by the increasing emphasis on visual culture and interdisciplinarity?

The conference aims to consider figures from many disciplines as active agents in the writing of art history, including curators, art critics, conservators, public educators, artists, and scholars from other fields. The papers being presented take the work of specific authors as objects of study or engage more generally with the conditions of art historical writing. The conference is, more importantly, an opportunity for participants to examine their own roles as authors of art history.

The topics addressed include:

  • The biography/identity of the art historian
  • The history of art as a history of authors
  • The socio-political determinations of art historical writing
  • The art historian as primary viewer of works of art
  • The art historian as mediator of artistic practice
  • The role of the art historian in defining the conceptual boundaries of the discipline
  • Art historical writing as a task for non-art historians
  • The art historian as ambassador: cultural, political, and institutional

Presentations will be twenty minutes in length and will be followed by a discussion period.