History of Art and Architecture

Terry Smith and Saloni Marthur Colloquium


Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Mellon Professor Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh


Associate Professor Saloni Marthur, History of Art, University of California, Los Angeles

There is no doubt that contemporary artistic practice has been shaped above all by the forces of globalization that, from the 1980s until recently, predominated within international economic exchange, drove much of world politics, and disseminated spectacle as the theatre of individual and collective imagination in the lives of people all over the world. Acknowledging the broad outlines of the obvious connections between art and social change, a number of art critics, historians, curators, and theorists, along with certain students of visual culture, have pursued an interesting set of more specific questions. Did globalized art values spread from the modern cultural centers along with the inroads of multinational capital, intergovernmental agencies, and new technologies? Or did the globalization of contemporary art take hold in art producing centers around the world in ways distinctive to each of them?  In considering these questions, should we include within the overall conception of “globalization” actions and attitudes such as anti-globalist resistance, defiant localism, critical cosmopolitanism, and evasive tangentiality?  Should we see such reactions as in dialectical opposition to top-down globalization, as in continuity with previous counter-currents, or as emergent modes of living?  Can these developments can be periodized? Since 2001, a number of unanticipated world-scale changes, notably the increasing disjunction between the leading economies––each with different models of economic organization, all prioritizing national objectives, and none seeking to universalize their model––has broken the hegemonic grip of globalization as a world phenomenon. In 2008 it seemed shaky indeed. Do we need other ideas to guide our thinking on these world-picturing levels? Perhaps we can no longer so conveniently substitute “globalization” for “modernity” and/or “postmodernity” when it comes to naming the overarching framework of present and future possibility?

Professor Mathur will respond to an essay on these issues written by Professor Smith for the book, The Global Contemporary: The Rise of New Art Worlds after 1989, edited by Hans Belting, Andrea Buddensieg and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press for ZKM, Karlsruhe, due to be published in 2013).  Discussion will follow. 

For a pdf of Professor Smith’s paper click here

TERRY SMITH, FAHA, CIHA, is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and Distinguished Visiting Professor, National Institute for Experimental Arts, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. In 2010 he was named Australia Council Visual Arts Laureate by the Australian Government, and won the Mather Award for art criticism conferred by the College Art Association (USA). He is the author of Making the Modern: Industry, Art and Design in America (University of Chicago Press, 1993; inaugural Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Book Prize 2009); Transformations in Australian Art, volume 1, The Nineteenth Century: Landscape, Colony and Nation, and volume 2, The Twentieth Century: Modernism and Aboriginality (Craftsman House, Sydney, 2002); The Architecture of Aftermath (University of Chicago Press, 2006), What is Contemporary Art? (University of Chicago Press, 2009), Contemporary Art: World Currents (Laurence King and Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2011), and Thinking Contemporary Curating (Independent Curators International, 2012).

Saloni Mathur, who received her PhD. in Cultural Anthropology from the New School for Social Research in New York in 1998, brings both art historical and anthropological perspectives to her teaching and research. Her areas of interest include the visual cultures of modern South Asia and its diasporas, colonial studies and postcolonial criticism, the history of anthropological ideas, museum studies in a global frame, and modern and contemporary South Asian art. She is author of India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (UC Press, 2007), editor of The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (Clark Art Institute/Yale University Press, 2011), and co-editor (with Kavita Singh) of No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: Modalities of the Museum in South Asia (Routledge, forthcoming). Professor Mathur has also written about the work of the contemporary Indian artist, Vivan Sundaram, and received awards/fellowships from the Yale Center for British Art, the Getty Grant Program, the Clark Art Institute, the Getty Research Institute, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, and the Social Science Research Council of Canada. She recently joined the editorial board of the CAA’s Art Journal for a four year term.