The Power and Limits of cross-cultural Curatorship: Processes of Canonisation and Decanonisation

Panel at the conference "Cultures of Curating: Curatorial Practices and the Production of Meaning c. 1650-2000" at the University of Lincoln

organized by Mirjam Brusius and Eva-Maria Troelenberg

Museums and Galleries History Group (MGHG) and University of Lincoln in collaboration with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut

This panel will consider four case studies of curators who engage or engaged with non-European artefacts. As curators they negotiated and defined the position of these intricate objects within the framework of Western museums/art institutions and thus within the art historical canon. Non-European artefacts can be challenging objects in terms of their aesthetics and materiality: they elude the canonical traditions and criteria of a traditional Western notion of "high art" and thus primarily appear as "outsiders" (Cunningham/Barker 1999, 15) within the canonical framework of the museum. Indeed, the normative power of the museum, in particular the art museum, used to be and still is a crucial factor for the incorporation of museum objects. The very fact that they are present in these institutions is an act of "ennoblement"; that is, once an object is upgraded by its presence in the museum it can also be considered art.

Scholars have hitherto not paid much attention, however, to the significant and powerful role that individual museum curators are able to take on in this process. What kind of motivations initiated their interest in artefacts which were not considered to be part of the mainstream canon? What kind of resistance did they experience and which methodological and political strategies did they use? Did they engage in strategies of assimilation or secession, and to which extent did this process finally shape the perception of particular objects and of the cultures they represent? On a broader scale, this panel aims to scrutinze approaches which fail to outline the social and economic structures decisively influencing the production of meaning in the formation of European canonical traditions.

Reference: Colin Cunningham and Emma Barker: Introduction, in: Academies, Museums and Canons of Art, ed. Gill Perry and Colin Cunningham, Yale New Haven and London 1999, 6-17.


Mirjam Brusius (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut)

Objects on the threshold. Curators around 1850 and the new arrival of objects from Mesopotamia in London

Eva-Maria Troelenberg (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut)

Across shifting world orders: Curating Islamic art in Berlin, ca. 1910-1960

Mirjam Shatanawi (Tropenmuseum Amsterdam)

Objects of a neglected heritage: F. W. Stammeshaus and the representation of Indonesian Islam

David Frohnapfel (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut)

Rhizomatic Curation: The Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince

University of Lincoln
Dr. Eva-Maria Troelenberg  

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