About Us

Message from the Chair




Greetings from the Acting Chair

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words,” erroneously attributed to the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius but actually coined in the early days of American advertising, has taken on new weight in our current image-drenched world. Each of us encounters (and some of us create) countless visual images each day. This turn to the visual brings increased attention to the history of art as a discipline whose mission is to understand how the visual arts work. Now more than ever, the study of art and visual culture is essential to a truly humanistic education. Our department has long been at the forefront of research and teaching that probes how we are affected by art, how it can manipulate and transform us, and how it can help us to realize our best (and, alas, also our worst) possible selves.

Under the unwavering leadership of Chair Bonnie Wade, to whom we owe an irredeemable debt of gratitude, the past two years have been a productive time for our Department. We expanded our program with new courses in Latin American, African, and Islamic art. Justin Underhill, a Berkeley PhD and currently Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital Humanities, brought new visualization technologies to the study of art and architecture in courses that give students the high-level technical skills they need to understand and reconstruct historical works. And we partnered with the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive to launch a second three-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Graduate Study in Curatorial Preparedness and Object-Based Learning Initiative. Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, gave the 2017 Mary C. Stoddard Lecture, and the Berkeley/Stanford Joint Graduate Student Symposium was hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as it will be again this year. This year we welcome a new member to our faculty, Atreyee Gupta, whose work takes a global perspective on the art of modern Asia and amplifies our cutting-edge program in 20th- and 21st-century art. We warmly invite you to attend a full roster of lectures and symposia, including Cinephiles, Fandoms, and Global Media Cultures: Indian Cinema from a Transcultural Perspective (October 10, 2017) and The Idea of “Global Modernism” (October 20, 2017). (Please see our department website: arthistory.berkeley.edu, for current information about events.)
These have been challenging economic times for the University, for our Department, and for public education in general and, as you know, Berkeley’s reputation as a bastion of free speech has made our campus ground-zero for the raging national debate about our First Amendment rights. We join hands with Carol Christ, our new Chancellor, and the rest of the campus community in this coming “Free Speech Year” and in campus efforts to stabilize the University financially, to maintain its excellence, and to realize our shared goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion. We invite you to stand with us in these critical enterprises.

All of us are pleased to be able to keep in touch with all of you in our global community of graduates and friends. My warm thanks to this year’s Newsletter editor, Imogen Hart, for her dedicated work in bringing this year’s edition to us.

Patricia Berger
Acting Chair, 2017–18