Departmental Events

  • Five Buddhas crown, MG. 17781, Guiyijun Period (848-1036), second half of tenth century, ink and color on paper, 28.7 x 54 cm., originally from Dunhuang, now in the Musée Guimet

    Buddhist Maṇḍalas and Narratives of Enlightenment

    Michelle C. Wang, Georgetown University

    Throughout the twentieth century, scholarly and popular interpretations of Buddhist maṇḍalas emphasized their status as expressions of the human psyche. By virtue of their circular form, they were considered to represent the wholeness of the self. Shifting the discourse from one focused upon the human subject to one that instead places the Buddha’s experience at the forefront, this talk analyzes eighth to tenth century Buddhist maṇḍalas from Dunhuang (Gansu Province, China) as embodiments of the Buddha’s own awakening, in particular narratives of enlightenment that emerged within the context of esoteric Buddhism. Furthermore, the mapping of Buddhist maṇḍalas onto the architectural space of cave shrines at Dunhuang underscores the subjective nature of vision that was key not only to the performative restaging of the Buddha’s awakening, but also of the transformation from bodhisattva to Buddhahood.

    Michelle C. Wang is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University. She is a specialist in the Buddhist visual culture of medieval China, in particular, mural and portable paintings from Silk Road sites. She has authored articles on changing conceptions of maṇḍalas in Tang China and paired images in Buddhist art, and recently completed a book manuscript titled Maṇḍalas in the Making: The Visual Culture of Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang. Her research has been supported by grants from the Asian Cultural Council, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the Association for Asian Studies. 

  • Gualterus Arsenius, 1563 Armillary Sphere, Brussels, Museum of Fine Arts

    Materialised Knowledge in Renaissance Art and Science: The Production and Representation of Flemish Scientific Instruments

    Koenraad Van Cleempoel

    Scientific instruments of the renaissance period well represent the concept of "materialised knowledge." They are carriers of ideas as well as very elegant and refined objects. The lecture will discuss astrolabes, globes, sundials and armillary spheres with a particular emphasis on the Flemish context: between c. 1525 and c. 1580 the university city of Louvain became Europe's most important center for instrument making partly due to the research and technical skills of Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) and Gemma Frisius (1508-1555). This high reputation is due in equal measure to the combination of the beauty and the precision of these instruments. It is this perfect harmony of aesthetics and science that made the Louvain instruments so sought after in the European market. The lecture will also discuss their representation and meaning in contemporary paintings.

    Koenraad Van Cleempoel studied art history in Louvain, Madrid and London where he received his PhD at the Warburg Institute. He was Sackler Fellow at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich where he catalogued their collection of astrolabes (Oxford UP) and research fellow at the Institute for the History of Science, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. Scientific instruments of the Latin West between c. 1400 and 1650 are his field of research. In recent years he also published on adaptive reuse of heritage sites. He is professor in art history and vice dean at the Faculty of Architecture in Hasselt University (Belgium).

  • Samuel Levi Jones,

    Black | Art | Futures: African Diasporic Art Histories

    The keynote lecture will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 16; presentations and discussions by other speakers and respondents will begin the following day at 9:00 a.m.

    Steven Nelson’s recent charge about addressing the lack of diversity in the field as well as his own inter- and cross-disciplinary intellectual practices serve as a guide for our inquiries.

    This symposium is part of an ongoing set of conversations around a number of questions. These include: the relationship between African/African American and African diasporic art (where/when/what/how is Black Art?); the understudied areas of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin American art; the relationship between art history and visual culture/studies; the future of the field and its theoretical legacies; the heightened prominence of black art globally inter-disciplinarity in the field (different objects, different methodologies). Thus we are seeking the opportunity to learn from some of the the strongest emergent scholars in the field.

    Our invited guests include:

    Beatriz Balanta, Southern Methodist University
    Dana Byrd, Bowdoin College
    Dwight Carey, Amherst College
    Bridget Cooks, University of California, Irvine
    Nikki A. Greene, Wellesley College
    Cécile Fromont, University of Chicago
    Erica James, Yale University
    Ivy Mills, University of California, Berkeley
    Derek Murray, University of California, Santa Cruz
    Steven Nelson, University of California, Los Angeles

    co-organized by the Departments of History of Art and African American Studies


  • Clay figurines from Shanxi (山西) province, Pingyang (平阳),

    Female Bodily Sacrifice and the Absence of Men: Filial Figuration in Song, Jin, and Liao Tombs

    Winston Kyan, University of Utah

    Among the pantheon of filial offspring in China, a striking if overlooked figure is the wife of Wang Wuzi, or Wang Wuzi Qi, 王武子妻, who offers her flesh to cure her sick mother-in-law through an act of filial thigh cutting, or gegu, 割股. While the paradox of gegu as being both an act of filial caring towards one’s parents and an act of unfilial neglect towards the parental gift of the body has attracted the attention of scholars both medieval and modern, a close analysis of its figural representation remains to be done. Images of Wang Wuzi Qi are particularly intriguing since they appear across a variety of funerary media from Song, Jin, and Liao period tombs, ranging across painted murals, engraved stone slabs, painted carved bricks, carved low relief tiles, and three-dimensional tableaux of clay figurines. However, these diverse images are limited by established pictorial conventions, geographic locations in southern Shanxi and northern Henan provinces, and chronological parameters from the late eleventh- to early thirteenth-centuries. Moreover, the pictorial standardization of a controversial filial sacrifice within the hallowed filial space of the tomb raises key issues regarding the construction of a “new” filial paragon, the relationship between Buddhist caves and ancestral tombs, as well as the connection between filial efficacy as a popular belief and an elite value.

    Winston Kyan was born in Rangoon, Burma. He holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and an MA and PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago. He has taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he is currently Assistant Professor of Art History. His current and primary research project is rethinking the intersection of filial piety and Buddhist art in medieval China through representations of the body, sacrifice, and health as a sensorium of sight, smells, sounds, tastes, touch, and other modes of perception beyond the usual five. He is wrapping up a manuscript on this topic while continuing side interests in the relationship between contemporary Asian art and Buddhism as well as Asian American visual culture as sites of religious identity. His next research project will explore the visual and material culture of the trade and military routes between Yunnan, China and Myanmar/Burma. His publications have appeared in The Art Bulletin, Amerasia Journal, and Art Journal Open, in addition to other conference volumes and digital resources.

  • Bowl with Human Feet, Egyptian  Date: ca. 3900–3650 B.C. Polished red pottery Dimensions: diam. 13.2 x W. 13.7 x D. 9.8 cm (5 3/16 x 5 3/8 x 3 7/8 in.) Metropolitan Museum,  Rogers Fund, 1910 Accession Number: 10.176.113 (MMA)

    Stoddard Lecture 2017

    Gerhard Wolf

    Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut, will deliver the 2017 Stoddard Lecture, Broken Vases, Walking Vessels: Aesthetics and Dynamics of Containment in a Transcultural Perspective (Mostly Premodern)


  • The new SFMOMA, view from Yerba Buena Gardens; photo © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

    Not At Home: Migration, Pilgrimage, and Displacement in Art, Design, and Visual Culture

    The inaugural Berkeley/Stanford Symposium will be held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in Spring, 2017. Not at Home is an opportunity to discuss how visual material has registered changing relations to home over time. Papers, panels, and performance pieces speak to how home and its opposites – displacement, estrangement, voyage, or exile – manifest in visual expression and material culture throughout history. They ask, among other questions, if home is denied, rejected, or destroyed, what are the spaces of not-at-home, and how are they visually created? Join us for a critically and politically engaged dialog across disciplines, temporalities, and creative practice.

    Organized in the 2016/2017 academic year by Danny Smith (Stanford) and Jess Genevieve Bailey (UC Berkeley), the Berkeley/Stanford Symposium is an annual gathering of emerging voices in the arts. The symposia seek to support graduate students in all fields as well as young artists, museum professionals, and writers.

    Free of charge and open to the public. Program and keynote speaker to follow. 

  • “Through the Eyes of Another: Visions of Arhats in Song-Dynasty China”

    Phillip Bloom, University of Indiana

    Crafted between 1178 and 1188 for ritual use in a small temple near Ningbo, the one hundred hanging scrolls of the Five Hundred Arhats (Daitokuji, Kyoto, Japan) possess a striking peculiarity: more often than not, the set’s eponymous semi-divine monks are simply shown gazing. They gaze at natural wonders, they gaze at supernatural feats performed by their peers, they gaze at episodes from the mytho-history of Buddhism, and most importantly, they gaze even at paintings. How are we to understand these scrolls’ insistence on acts of viewing, and how might Song worshippers have responded? Through their practice of gazing, do these arhats merely model for us how we ought to look, or are other motivations at work? To make sense of the multiple forms of spectatorial engagement facilitated by these scrolls, this presentation will bring them into dialogue with contemporaneous poems that describe imaginative acts of entering painted worlds and with liturgies that prescribe the performative inhabitation of other subject positions. Drawing on such texts, I shall argue that the Five Hundred Arhats and other works of Song Buddhist art seek to create possibilities for intersubjective experience—for viewing the world through the eyes of an awakened other.

    Phillip E. Bloom is Assistant Professor of East Asian Art History in the Department of Art History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He specializes in the history of Song-dynasty Buddhist art and ritual. His work has recently appeared in The Art Bulletin and Bukkyō geijutsu, and he is currently completing a book manuscript, tentatively titled Nebulous Intersections: Ritual and Representation in Chinese Buddhist Art, ca. 1178.

  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard, <i>The Love Letter</i>, ca. 1770

    "Love, Trust, Risk: Epistolary Pictures in Eighteenth-Century France"

    Nina Dubin

    Nina L. Dubin is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she has taught since receiving her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a specialist in eighteenth-century French art and the author of Futures & Ruins: Eighteenth-Century Paris and the Art of Hubert Robert (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010; 2012). Her work has been supported by institutions including the Getty Research Institute and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, where she was a Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellow from 2013 to 2014.  

  • The Glamorous One-Two Punch: Alfonso Brown, 1920s Paris, and the Making of the Beautiful Black Male Athlete

    Lyneise Williams

    At this moment in the twenty-first century, we take images of beautiful, black male athletes for granted in the United States and globally. But this merger of ideas about beauty and black male athletic bodies is relatively new. The visual type of the desirable, black athlete first emerged in 1927 Paris. It burst forth in one of the most widely circulated popular sports weeklies, Match L’Intran (whose broad circulation extended into the French colonies in the Americas and Africa) in a cover image of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Teofilo Brown, Bantamweight World Champion from 1929-1936. In this presentation, I explore how sports journalism, cutting edge photomechanical reproduction technologies, cinematic photography, and new graphic design possibilities, among many social forces, converged to generate this striking, and enduring visual type.


    Lyneise Williams is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (PhD Yale 2004). She is the author of Latinizing Blackness in Paris, 1855-1933, (forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic Publishers), which examines how Parisians’ visual iconography of Latin Americans in popular imagery inextricably links blackness to Latin American identity beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Three case studies focusing on the imagery of Cuban circus entertainer, Chocolat, Panamanian World Bantamweight Champion boxer, Alfonso Teofilo Brown, and Black Uruguayans by Uruguayan painter, Pedro Figari, demonstrate the way this strategy was reconfigured in portrayals of phenotypically black Latin Americans, and argue for a nuanced reconsideration of blackness in early twentieth century Paris. Her second book project, explores the intersection of beauty, and the black male athlete in 1920s and 30s Paris. Currently, Williams is serving as a Getty Scholar Fellow at the Getty Research Institute. She has published articles on the paintings of Uruguayan artist Pedro Figari, the depictions of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Teofilo Brown, as well as on African art and hip-hop jewelry. Williams has curated exhibitions on African art, and she is a member of the team selected from an international competition to design the North Carolina Freedom Monument Project in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  • Art in the Expulsion of Christianity from Japan, 1614-15

    Timon Screech, Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts, SOAS, University of London

    The Jesuit and then Franciscan missions many large inroads into Japan from about 1550, but were severely curtailed in 1614, with all priests and friars expelled. There had been restrictions before, but the reason for this abrupt and total change of policy has ever been clearly explained. This talk will propose it was the arrival of the English that triggered the shift. England was the most anti-Catholic nation in Europe, and specifically anti-Jesuit, blaming them for a string of attacks on their polity (often without good reason, in the views of modern historians). The first English ship arrived in summer 1613. But its officers had trouble articulating their views, and so resorted to pictures, a great many of which were exported to Japan in subsequent voyages. All images are lost, but this talk will also seek to reconstruct them, and assess their meanings and appearances. 

  • The Utopian Horizons of a Post-imperial Future: Insurgent Collage in Interwar India

    Atreyee Gupta

    1937. In the backdrop of a world veering precariously close to the Second World War, the Indian artist Abanindranath Tagore began a manuscript, an artists’ book of sorts, based on the epic Ramayana. 207 collages, which combined photographs, cinema reviews, advertisements, and typography from contemporary newspapers, accompanied the artist’s handwritten text. While the text broadly followed the Indian epic, the collages invoked a transcontinental cast of characters including Japan’s Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, Hitler, and Stalin, and events such as Italy’s aggression on Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War. As the first collage by an Indian artist, the project opens up the history and historiography of twentieth-century art to several compelling questions, some of which will be taken up in this talk. As we will see, the collages belonged to a new register of modernist aesthetic thought and practice, one that reworked the illustrative presence of documentary photography to enunciate a utopian post-imperial global horizon. The promise of modernism, the talk contends, remained obdurately lodged within this utopian imagination of an egalitarian future, a future that lay beyond the limits of the interwar world order. In the collages, the aspiration for, and the expectation of, sovereignty thus assumed discursive and material form in an anti-realist aesthetic that closely approximated a utopian vision for a post-imperial political future. Anti-realist because, expectation withstanding, this post-imperial future was not yet actualized in any real dimension. Modernism, then, was the name of that which gave this global post-imperial future shape in a still colonized interwar present.

    Dr. Atreyee Gupta is Jane Emison Assistant Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her research interests include art, visual cultures, and intellectual histories of 20th-century South Asia; the intersections between the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement, and artistic practices; and Global Modernisms. She trained in art history at the University of Minnesota in the US and the M.S. University Baroda in India. Prior to joining MIA, she was based in Germany, first at Haus der Kunst, Munich and then at the Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Program of the Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. Alongside curatorial projects on contemporary Buddhist art of South and Southeast Asia and the art and history of the South Asian diaspora in the US, she is completing a monograph that focuses on abstraction in interwar and postwar painting, sculpture, photography, and experimental film in South Asia. Other ongoing projects include Converging Cultures, an exhibition on the impact of the Asian diaspora on Latin American art (co-curated for the Art Museum of the Americas); Postwar - Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 (co-edited with Okwui Enwezor); and Global Modernism/s: Infrastructures of Contiguities, ca. 1905–1965 (co-edited with Hannah Baader and Patrick Flores).

    A "research seminar" featuring work in progress will be presented the following day, to which faculty and graduate students are invited: 11:15 a.m., 308B Doe Library.

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