The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology by Donald Prezioso
What is art history? Why, how and where did it originate, and how have its aims and methods changed over time? The history of art has been written and rewritten since classical antiquity. Since the foundation of the modern discipline of art history in Germany in the late eighteenth century, debates about art and its histories have intensified. Historians, philosophers, psychologists and anthropologists among others have changed our notions of what art history has been, is, and might be. This anthology is a guide to understanding art history through a critical reading of the field's most innovative and influential texts over the past two centuries. Each section focuses on a key issue: aesthetics, style, history as an art, iconography and semiology, gender, modernity and postmodernity, deconstruction and museology. More than thirty readings from writers as diverse as Winckelmann, Kant, Gombrich, Warburg, Panofsky, Heidegger, Lisa Tickner, Meyer Schapiro, Jacques Derrida, Mary Kelly, Michel Foucault, Rosalind Krauss, Louis Marin, Margaret Iversen and Nestor Canclini are brought together, and Donald Preziosi's introductions to each topic provide background information, bibliographies, and critical elucidations of the issues at stake. His own concluding essay is an important and original contribution to scholarship in the field. From the pre-publication reviews: 'Until now, anthologies about the history of art have tended to be worthy yet inert, plotting a linear evolution from the great precursors (Vasari, Winckelmann) to the founding fathers of the modern discipline (Wolfflin, Riegl, Panofsky) to the achievements and refinements of today's scholarship. The texts that Donald Preziosi has brought together provide something far more challenging: the juxtapositions and alignments between individual essays point the reader towards unresolved problems, ongoing debates, and paths not takenor not taken yet. In place of the consoling tale of intellectual progress, the collection defamiliarizes the whole field, and opens up a space for radical reflection on its basic procedures and assumptions. Definitely the best introduction to art history currently available.' - Professor Norman Bryson, Harvard University; 'Donald Preziosi has prepared an anthologyfrom the Greek, a collection of flowersof art history. His bouquet contains representatives from the discipline's two-hundred year history, arranged in standard and innovative methodological categories. Within each, the readings selected provide stimulating congruencies and contradictions that will inspire productive debate and contemplation. But what makes this anthology more than an arresting assemblage is the author's critical stance toward what he has wrought. His introduction and concluding chapter write around and under the subjects presented, emphasizing the 'art' of art history, its kinship with modernity's post-Enlightenment project, and its collaboration with the rise of nationalism. Thus the discipline's past is probed and questioned and made relevant for its present and future. The whole thereby addresses, without healing or concealing, the disciplinary ruptures of modernism. The book might also have explored further nature of art history's history within the emergent discourse of post-colonialism and the globalization of culture Yet the many new perspectives it does offer help to re-present the discipline for its readers, students, teachers, and curators, for other areas of humanistic inquiry, which are being subject to similar critiques, and for artists and the larger art community, for whom history, narrative, and an accounting of art's past have once again become vital issues' - Professor Robert S. Nelson, Professor of Art History and Chair, Committee for the History of Culture, University of Chicago; 'Rather than focusing on its Vasarian moment or on the later academic institutionalization of art history in the 19th and 20th centuries, Donald Preziosi, in The Art of Art History, constructs a reading of this hegemonic and reductive practice of making 'the visible legible' as one that is inextricably tied to the museographic paradigm of late 18th and early 19th centuries. This shift, he sees as equivalent in importance to the brought by the 'invention' of perspective. But the author goes further than to underline the implication of art history with the premises of modernity, he makes a strong case, in a vivid and inspiring prose, for a tighter equation between art history and modernity: an equation grounded in his insightful considerations (and meteoric formulations) of the epistemological setting, rhetorical operations political (colonialist) aims and schizophrenic yet all-invasive aestheticization of knowledge that, in the last two centuries, have fashioned what we will no longer dare to call the discipline of art history. The result is a flamboyant book that offers anything but a celebratory reading of art history. It does not constitute an articulation of canonical texts or an up-to-date menu of art historical currents, methods, or trends. Yet it manages to avoid none of these dimensions. Art history is not envisages as the learned discourse of modernity on a specific class of objects nor is it reduced to a genealogy of outstanding artist-subjects and their volatile constellations of contemporary subjects-readers. It becomes a practice wherein objects and subjects relate and relations often crystallize, under the unrecognized aegis of the fetish, this Other of art, since Preziosi concisely defines art as 'the anti-fetish fetish'. Far from the fantastic neutrality that is traditionally found in the format of such an historiographic endeavour, Preziosi frames his selection of text and threads through them with an array of different strategic voices, superimposed (to stress a spatial figure he is keen to discern) in order to elaborate a strong polemic position that situates art history as an enduring and well disguised fictional genre. In the process, the author courageously takes on the paradox that is at the core of his project: to introduce students to the coming out o art history...as art, one that is not necessarily meant to be our coming out of it but that certainly well establishes our motives to continue to shake its grounds and its multi-storied apparatus.' - Professor Johanne Lamoureux, University of Montreal.