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Connecting Art Histories in the Museum. The Mediterranean and Asia

Research and Fellowship Program of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB)

Hannah Baader, Gerhard Wolf, Michael Eissenhauer (Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, SMB), Jörg Völlnagel (Senior Officer International Relations, SMB)

In Cooperation with Klaas Ruitenbeek, Director of the Museum of Asian Art; Lilla Russell-Smith, Curator in the Museum of Asian Art; Stefan Weber, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art and Moritz Wullen, Director of the Art Library

Museums play a key role in the on-going redefinition of art and art history in the global perspectives of the 21st century. The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin with their universal collections participate in this process in a particular way, offering a unique opportunity for research using multidisciplinary approaches on artefacts from different cultures and civilizations.

Connecting Art Histories in the Museum is a joint project of the KHI with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB). It started in 2009 and comprises a fellowship program for up to five young international scholars designed to promote a novel combination of distinguished research and curatorial work. The program focuses on artistic and cultural interactions in the Mediterranean area and Asia, with a focus on the period between 400 and 1650. Doctoral and post-doctoral scholars study museum objects or groups of objects, aiming at a dialogue between Western, Byzantine, Islamic, and Asian art histories. Instead of concentrating exclusively on the objects' place in the history of pre-modern art or the museological aspects, the research program is concerned with the modern repercussions and expressions of interactions between diverse historical topographies. These dynamics are examined in the light of the following questions:

How can art-historical research deal with the transfer and exchange of moveable or immoveable heritage? How did the 19th to 20th century, and how does the newly emerging museum landscape in Berlin articulate political and cultural attitudes to historical sites of production, accumulation and translation of artefacts? How do museum displays evaluate and stage the ritual and aesthetic dimensions of objects? What possible dynamics exist between objects in the museums that are alien to each other in provenance and historical context? These questions, and the horizons they open up, include the redefining of the relationship between art and knowledge as well as the exploration of the borders between art and non-art.

The Art Library, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin are participating in the first phase of the project. The fellows work directly in the respective museums, in close contact with the curators/scholars in these institutions. The joint activities of the research group, through seminars, workshops, excursions and conferences (e.g. Round Table 'The Presence of the Objects and the Spaces of History', Pergamonmuseum, Berlin 2011), coordinated by the KHI and the colleagues of the SMB as well as international experts, allow academic exchange and research collaboration both within and outside the museum.


Project collaborators
Hannah Baader
Gerhard Wolf
Maria Schaller
Ines Konczak
Priyani Roy Choudhury
Zhihua Liu
Michael Eissenhauer
Jörg Völlnagel

Further information
Round Table "The Presence of the Objects and the Spaces of History" (Berlin, 14 April 2011)

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