HISTART 489.201

Special Topics: Modern Art Outside the Euro-American Sphere

180 Tappan Hall
MW 1:00-4:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

Modern art in Europe and America arose in the context of robust art worlds, the Paris of the nineteenth century, the London/Berlin/Rome/New York of the twentieth. In a neo-colonial attitude, long past its due date, modern art arising elsewhere than Europe and America was often thought peripheral, imitative, and incapable of innovation. This attitude was strongly held in part because many modern art movements arose through the diffusion of Western modernism, which was received in Latin America, Asia and Africa and then put to new use. Since global innovation largely depended upon reception and appropriation of Picasso, German expressionism, and the European avant-gardes, it was all too easily assumed that the art receiving this gift from the west was merely imitative and dependent. Little room was left to explore ways in which the appropriation of western modernism across various parts of the globe put it to new and creative use: fusing it with a country's unique artistic traditions in the spirit of nationalism, grafting it onto the rhythm and texture of incipient local life, investing it with reigning myths and scripts, or simply taking western art movements in new directions.

Neo-colonial attitudes towards the art of the globe have paled today, given the rise of major Asian and Latin American art markets, not to mention global biennales and collectors. And yet concepts and stories of modern art are just beginning to be written which explore the various conditions according to which modern art arose in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. This course will explore what is at stake in retelling stories of modern art so as to give modernism outside of Europe and America its due. Books are now being written to do exactly that, exploring what it was like to make modern art in the absence of robust artworlds, in the light of neo-colonial condescension, at a moment of decolonization and nationalism where the past became critical to nation-building, in the light of settler and indigenous traditions. Stories are now being told of art traditions in Africa, Australia and other places, which make contact with modern life and speak to its pressures and do so without contact with western modernism. The story of globalization, wherein art markets largely internationalized, is also being told. In this class we will explore that whole question of modern art outside Europe and America focusing on Mexico, India, South Africa and Australia.

History of Art Distributions: 4. Modern and Contemporary, B. Sub-Saharan Africa, C. Asia (includes China, Japan, India, South and Southeast Asia, and the Pacific), D. Europe and the U.S., E. Latin America and the Caribbean.

Course Requirements: Two short papers of 3 pages each on assigned topics, and a final research paper of 10 pages or more on a topic of the student's choosing. There will be no tests or final exam.

Resources: The following books will be included (and more):

  • Clark, T.J., Manet and the Painting of Modern Life
  • Berger, John, The Success and Failure of Picasso
  • Herwitz, D., Heritage, Culture and Politics in the Postcolony
  • Tapati-Guha, The Making of a New Indian Art
  • Coombes, A., History After Apartheid
  • Oguibe, J., The Culture Game
  • Morphy, H., Aboriginal Art