UC Berkeley History of Art Department


arts.berkeley.edu Archive

  • Funerary portrait relief of the Palmyrene priest, Mariôn (courtesy of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen [I.N. 1033], The Palmyra Portrait Project)

    The Classics Department Presents: Palmyrene Funerary Portraits, A Roman Period Portrait Habit

    Rubina Raja, Aarhus University School of Culture and Society

    Palmyrene funerary portraits make up the largest group of representations of individuals from antiquity arising out of a single urban context. The ancient city of Palmyra was rediscovered in 1751 by British travellers. Though many sculpted portraits still remain at the site, large numbers of Palmyrene funerary portraits have made their way into numerous art collections around the world. In 2012 a project was initiated at Aarhus University, Denmark, to document all known examples. Since then more than 3,000 have been recorded, which makes this the single largest surviving corpus of funerary portraits from anywhere in the Roman world.

    As a result of the escalating conflict in Syria, this project has since assumed particular importance: it is the sole source of documentation for a large number of extant portraits which were still in-situ before the civil war broke out. This lecture will address Palmyra’s archaeology and history, its unique funerary portrait tradition, and the cultural heritage catastrophe that the civil war in Syria has brought about.

    Rubina Raja is professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark. She studied in Copenhagen, Rome, and Oxford, before taking up a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany and subsequently one in Aarhus, Denmark. Since 2015 she has held the chair of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University and is the director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions. She initiated and is director of the Palmyra Portrait Project, financed by the Carlsberg Foundation. She also directs an international excavation project in the Decapolis city of Gerasa in modern Jordan. She has published extensively on urban development in the ancient world and religion in the Roman period as well as portraiture in the Roman world.

  • The Philosopher’s Room: Dressing Gowns and Shipwrecks in Diderot’s Regrets

    Katie Scott, Courtauld Institute of Art

    An interdisciplinary analysis of Diderot’s short story, or essay, "Regrets sur ma vieille robe de chambre" (1769), this lecture aims to understand why Diderot chose to develop his critique of luxury (if such it is) in the context of what purports to be a short piece of life-writing, circulated to an elite readership via the Correspondance littéraire. As an art historian I am interested in accounting for Diderot’s use of both spatial form and ekphrasis to describe the appearance, and justify the possession of, luxury objects, a marine painting by Claude-Joseph Vernet most especially. However, the lecture will also engage with the moral questions raised in the discourse on the causes and effects of luxury, and proposes Michel Foucault’s theory of practical ethics as the appropriate model for the interpretation of Diderot’s apparent ambivalence with regard to non-essential consumer spending. The figure of the philosophe is here analysed in the context of the mid-century debate about the political morality of ‘his’ assimilation into elite salon culture, and in contrast to the much reviled figure of the amateur. This lecture addresses the relation between public and private in the specific contexts of the open door of hospitality on the one hand, and, on the other, of the materiality, or persuasive pleasure of the literary text. 

  • Crossing the Bridge: Berkeley to SFMOMA

    Ruth Berson, Deputy Museum Director, Curatorial Affairs, SFMOMA

  • Grapes by Wen Riguan

    A Passion for Grapes—Thoughts on a Chinese Buddhist Painting

    Patricia Berger

    In this lecture UC Berkeley professor Patricia Berger considers Wen Riguan's early fourteenth-century Grapes, one of the most important early Chinese paintings in the BAMPFA collection (on view in Summer Trees Casting Shade). The artist was a well-known Buddhist abbot in the southern city of Hangzhou, equally renowned for a fluid use of the brush and an obsession with grapes. Berger will explore what Wen's focus on grapes tells us about his Buddhist practice and the reception of the painting as it made its way from China to Japan and ultimately to Berkeley.

    A Passion for Grapes (BAMPFA)

  • Rise of Neo-Buddhist Visual Culture: Assertion, Alternative, and Difference

    Y.S. Alone, Professor in Visual Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawahrlal Nehru University

    This event is co-sponsored by the Department of History of Art and hosted by the Institute for South Asia Studies. Full details can be found here

  • Girl with an Orange, oil on canvas, 1943 (Johannesburg Art Gallery)

    "Global" Post-Impressionism

    Sam Rose, University of St Andrews

    The lecture will examine late nineteenth- and early- to mid-twentieth-century Western European attempts to give a unified and universalizing account of the nature of modern art. “Post-Impressionism” (a term coined by the English critic Roger Fry in 1910) has long been out of favour as a category in art history, rejected as a crude label that obscures the true nature of the artists and styles it attempted to group. In this lecture, however, it is used not as a way to categorize late-nineteenth-century French painting (as in the first “Post-Impressionist” exhibition at the Grafton Gallery in London in 1910-11), but instead in order to come to terms with post-1900 conceptions of the universal nature of modern art. In the early- to mid-twentieth century, how was this theoretically “global” account followed up, spreading its tenets by way of criticism, exhibition, and art education to many parts of the world beyond Western Europe?

    Dr. Rose is a Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. 

  • Unknown photographer, Hearst Party Visiting the Sphinx and the Pyramids, January 1899. Phoebe Hearst made up for her lack of a formal education with extensive reading and travel, including visiting the excavation sites that she funded. On a later trip in 1905, she speaks enthusiastically about seeing the dig sites: “We saw a tomb opened where they found two statues. If you had seen me hanging over the edge of the place looking down to see the figures as they were uncovered, you might have thought it right to class me with excavators. I was more excited than any one.”  Collection: Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, 15-18884.

    Exhibition: The Papyrus in the Crocodile: 150 Years of Excavation, Exploration, Collection, and Stewardship at Berkeley

    May 6 – July 29, 2016
    Bancroft Library Gallery, University of California, Berkeley
    (The Gallery is open M-F, 10 am to 4 pm; closed weekends and administrative holidays)

    The collections assembled by Berkeley’s many patrons and collectors during the last 150 years form the foundation of research materials related to a variety of the university’s academic disciplines. The Papyrus in the Crocodile embodies Berkeley’s motto fiat lux (“let there be light”) by illuminating a selection of these invaluable objects as testaments to the cosmopolitan ideologies of Berkeley’s visionary patrons and donors—whose own lives were scarcely less fascinating than the archeological, ethnographic, and aesthetic materials they amassed. By gathering together artifacts from repositories across the university, this exhibition sheds light on the history of acquisitions and encounters that have contributed to the academic diversity celebrated on the Berkeley campus; and recognizes the remarkable men and women who enthusiastically answered the call of University President Benjamin Ide Wheeler to collect for the sake of research and the creation of new knowledge.

    The Papyrus in the Crocodile begins by highlighting Phoebe Apperson Hearst, one of the university’s greatest contributors, and the exceptional collections compiled under her patronage. In 1899, Hearst funded an expedition organized by Egyptologist George A. Reisner, who hired Oxford papyrologists Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. As they excavated an Egyptian necropolis in the sands of ancient Tebtunis, they uncovered over 31,000 papyrus fragments, including second-century BCE texts stuffed into mummified crocodiles. The artifacts from that excavation entered the university’s new Museum of Anthropology (since renamed the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology) and many of the papyrus texts went to The Bancroft Library, where they are now housed at the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri.

    For the young California university, founded in 1868, the turn-of-the-century expeditions to the far corners of the world returned with materials that propelled Berkeley forward as a beacon of research and learning on par with many of its more established East Coast and European counterparts.

    This exhibition showcases the diverse nature of Berkeley’s collections, which span multiple continents, represent diverse cultures, and encompass a wide range of materials and media. For example, Phoebe Hearst’s Chinese robes and costume accessories later served as pedagogical devices for young women at the YWCA and as reference materials for Berkeley’s Design Department. After the dissolution of the Design Department, the robes came to the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The photographs, ritual objects, and ephemera collected by Theos Bernard, “the White Lama,” straddle the divide between entertainment and ritual, the secular and the religious. He incorporated pan-Asian objects and philosophies into his work and everyday life, and was a key figure in the dissemination of Eastern esoteric practices in the West. History unfolds before the viewer in the case of the Codex Fernández Leal, a twenty-foot long sixteenth-century illustrated scroll that documents Mesoamerican history and culture. Earthenware pots and woven baskets demonstrate the diversity of indigenous cultures stretching from South America to the Californian coastline. Combined with photographs, maps, and paintings, these objects attest to ethnographic and commercial interactions between indigenous cultures and Western explorers, merchants, scholars, and settlers.

    Natural history prints and paintings show how artists and scientists turned their attention to the natural world, combining the arts of illustration with empirical observation. Arts and Crafts books and interior designs detail domestic manifestations of this age of exploration in aestheticized natural motifs. Garden designers harnessed the life cycle of plants from around the world, to shape, color, and ornament the private landscape of home and garden.

    The collections on display in the exhibition are not only beautiful, but they also continue to serve the research needs of students and scholars at Berkeley and around the world. The Center for the Tebtunis Papyri provides primary research materials for the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) Project. Hand-printed and hand-bound Arts and Crafts books, collected and donated by advertising executive Norman H. Strouse, are used in Berkeley classes taught at The Bancroft Library on the history of printing and the hand-printed book. The garden designs of Gertrude Jekyll, at the Environmental Design Archives, have made possible the restoration of Jekyll’s gardens in England. Berkeley’s stewardship of these collections has extended their lives beyond the moment of their creation and collection so that they continue to provide research opportunities across disciplines and departments, from Classics to anthropology, from art history to zoology, from religious studies to design. This unprecedented exhibition brings to light many objects never before seen by the public, and prompts both the public and new generations of scholars to engage with these remarkable collections in formulating and answering research questions.

    This exhibition is the capstone event of a three-year grant for Graduate Study in Curatorial Preparedness and Object-Based Learning from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Curated by students in the Mellon Exhibition Graduate Seminar, The Papyrus in the Crocodile represents the culmination of a year’s worth of research, selection, organization, and writing by students representing the fields of art history, anthropology, history, and religion. Co-taught by Professors Margaretta Lovell and Patricia Berger from the History of Art Department, the class began with whirlwind tours through Berkeley campus collections. Students gazed upon the painted faces of Egyptian coffins, delighted in the strains of Mozart pulled from a Baroque violin, marveled at the delicate well-provenanced creatures preserved in specimen jars, and pondered the possibilities of unrealized architectural plans. They met individually with curators from each repository to begin creating a list of objects for exhibition, and learned firsthand the meticulous process of compiling object lists—striking a balance between aspiration and feasibility—preparing loan agreements, writing labels, and designing compelling object groupings.

    The students of the Mellon Graduate Exhibition Seminar extend their gratitude to the directors and curators of the lending institutions, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible. Materials and consultations have been generously provided by the Bancroft Library, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, the Environmental Design Archives, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Special thanks goes out to The Bancroft Library for the use of its gallery and the invaluable tutoring on industry standards for exhibition planning offered by its staff.

    In addition to the exhibition, students are working on individual research papers based on objects in Berkeley’s collections. These papers will be presented at a public symposium on May 4, 2016 from 1 to 5 pm at the Women’s Faculty Club, UC Berkeley. All are welcome.

  • Berkeley Art Museum Event: Sugata Ray Lunchtime Talk

    Sugata Ray on Galesh Haloi's Gouaches 

  • Laurie Anderson Habeas Corpus

    Transversal Methods in Everyday Death-Worlds

    Jill H. Casid, Professor of Visual Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    What electrifies, what makes palpable the disavowed filaments of connection between the death-worlds over there and right here? Taking Guantánamo (and its phantom closure) as its improper object, this lecture offers an alternative in action to those engrained habits of method that partition death and life in ways that make illegible the extent to which we inhabit, in this extended period of endless war, a terror-zone in which the making of death-worlds of the living dead ostensibly “over there” in the occupied territories and extra-legal limbo zones of the “black sites” of unseen incarceration are also “right here” as the limits not just on right but also on the sensible. This lecture finds its opening provocation in U.S. artist Laurie Anderson’s installation Habeas Corpus (October 2-4, 2015) that cast a projection of former detainee Mohammed el Gharani from an undisclosed location in W. Africa into the interior of the Park Avenue Armory in New York City and cast his live-feed image onto a colossal white plaster rendering of a seated figure in an uncanny and virtual reversal of the Lincoln Memorial in which the imprisoned takes the grand seat, white turns to black, and the history of slavery returns as the present condition of the carceral. The projection and magnification trick of the single and massive beamed-in figure converts the over-there into the unavoidably here. But the device of the story-telling projection also, at the same time, points to the limits of the figure of the solitary witness to address the complex diagram of competing virtual, material, plant, and animal powers that proliferate the unruly necro-landscape of Guantánamo. Reckoning with the death-worlds in which we lose ourselves demands a recognition of the contaminated mixtures of affect and the development of a capacity for an improper geometry, one committed to drawing lines that connect not just the parallel but also and especially the non-reciprocal and incommensurable.

    A historian, theorist, and practicing artist, Jill H. Casid is Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization (Minnesota, 2006) which received the College Art Association’s Millard Meiss award and Scenes of Projection: Recasting the Enlightenment Subject (Minnesota, 2015) as well as the coedited volume Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn (Yale, 2014). Recent articles have appeared in Women and Performance, TDR, and the Journal of Visual Culture. She is currently completing a two-volume book project on Form at the Edges of Life and co-editing a volume of essays, The Deaths and Afterlives of Queer Theory with Michael Jay McClure.

    This event is co-sponsored by the History of Art Department, the Department of African-American and African Diaspora Studies, the Townsend Working Group in Contemporary Art, and the Black Feminist Epistemologies of Afro-Pessimism Working Group.

  • Difference/Distance: Picturing Race Across Oceans in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

    ** Please see the conference website for more information. **

    Conference Schedule

    9:00-9:15 -- Welcome and Conference Introduction

    9:15-10:50 -- Panel I
    Diasporic Currents: Locating Blackness Across the Atlantic

    Krista Thompson (Northwestern University)
    The Photographic Archive, Disappearance, and the Black Heroic Figure in Colonial Jamaica

    Olubukola Gbadegesin (St. Louis University)
    The Ekphrastic Life of Sarah Forbes Bonnetta

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (UC Berkeley)
    Brilliance and Blindness from Paris to New Orleans and Back: Creole Degas

    10:50-11:00 -- Break: Pastries + Coffee

    11:00–12:35pm -- Panel II
    Graphing Empire: Fixed Encounters, Moving Bodies

    Kailani Polzak (UC Berkeley)
    Varieties of Inscription: Sydney Parkinson and the Maori Moko

    Bronwen Douglas (Australia National University)
    Encounters, Graphic Representation, and the Generation of Racial Knowledge in Oceania

    Todd Olson (UC Berkeley)
    Sea-Change: Instruments, Swimming, and Race in the Early Modern Atlantic World

    12:35-2:00 -- Lunch (conference participants only)

    2:00-3:35 – Panel III
    Building Boundaries, Crossing Borders: Mixture, Metaphor, and the Racialization of Asia

    Sugata Ray (UC Berkeley)
    (Mis)Translating James Gibbs in the Indian Ocean World: Neoclassical Mosques, Subaltern Cosmopolitanisms, and the Architecture of a Muslim Modernity

    Ashley Bruckbauer (UNC Chapel Hill)
    Negotiating Race in French Images of Embassy

    Thadeus Dowad (UC Berkeley)
    “Islands in the Estranging Sea of Islam“: Ottomans, Race, and Islamic Art at the End of an Empire

    3:35-4:45 -- Concluding Remarks


  • © 2016 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Picasso's Demoiselles: Africa, Sex, Origins and Creativity

    Stoddard Lecture 2016, featuring Suzanne Blier. The lecture will be followed on Friday, April 15, by an all-day conference on Difference/Distance: Picturing Race Across Oceans in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. See this page for details.

  • Voyeurism, Virtue and Multivalence: Reframing ‘Susanna and the Elders’ in Early Modern Visual Culture

    A talk by Patricia Simons, Professor in the Art History Department at the University of Michigan.

  • Insurgent Aesthetics: US Military Detention and the Sensorial Life of Empire

    Ronak K. Kapadia, University of Illinois, Chicago

    Over the past two decades, the United States has engaged in an immense data collection project on racialized “Muslim” populations not just in its endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the US and around the world. How have US-based Arab, Muslim, and South Asian diasporic multimedia artists grappled with these new tactics of global counterinsurgency warfare and the gendered racial violence of the national security state in their aesthetic practices?

    This talk investigates the critical and social potential of contemporary visual and installation art by Rajkamal Kahlon, Mariam Ghani, and the Index of the Disappeared. Kapadia will focus on these artists' incorporation of newly released government documents detailing widespread abuses in US military practices of torture, interrogation, kidnapping, and rendition. The artists affix warmth, heat, and touch to otherwise “cold” data, thereby transforming the bureaucratic and administrative violence of the regulatory security state into an imaginative queer archive of the disappeared. Kapadia argues that the insurgent aesthetic appropriation of these declassified, but highly censored reports illuminates an alternative index of “warm data,” a way of conjuring the absences and sensory distortions in official records of military detention and warfare. This talk will explore how insurgent aesthetics utilize the torture archive as raw material for creative intervention, and in so doing, will offer a more imaginative account of security and the sensorial life of empire.

    Ronak K. Kapadia is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliated faculty in Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kapadia is completing his first book, Insurgent Aesthetics: Race, Security, and the Sensorial Life of Empire, which analyzes the contemporary US global security state in the Middle East and South Asia. The project specifically re-orients attention toward what he terms “insurgent aesthetics,” an alternative articulation of minoritarian knowledge produced by those populations most devastated by the effects of US global warfare. At once an examination of the influence of US national security culture and its permanent wars on contemporary art practices, the book also reveals the freedom dreams and radical imaginings of the Muslim International before and after the global war on terror. Kapadia’s writings are published or forthcoming in Asian American Literary Review, Journal of Popular Music Studies, South Asian Diaspora, and edited volumes that include: Shifting Borders: America and the Middle East/North Africa (Ed. Alex Lubin, AUB Press 2014), With Stones in Our Hands: Racism, Muslims, and US Empire (Ed. Sohail Daulatzai and Junaid Rana, U Minn Press 2016), and Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Duke UP 2016). With Katherine McKittrick and Simone Browne, Kapadia is co-editor of the special issue on race and surveillance for Surveillance & Society. Official event page is here.