UC Berkeley History of Art Department



  • Photograph of Mehwar Group environmental installation, Asilah, Morocco, 1985

    Creative Solidarity in the Global 1980s: Arab Art Networks

    Anneka Lenssen, Assistant Professor of History of Art

    We tend to think of the "global contemporary" as coalescing sometime near 1989, facilitated by free market flows after the fall of the Berlin Wall, or constructed, perhaps, in exhibitions such as Magiciens de la Terre. An alternative genealogy begins in the 1970s with efforts to institute a Third World cultural order through transversal circuits of communication rather than vertical dependencies. In this talk, Lenssen highlights a particularly productive circuit of Third World filiation in artist solidarity projects from the Middle East and North Africa. The talk focuses on three interrelated cases: the founding of the Arab Union of Plastic Artists in 1971, culminating in the Baghdad Biennial of 1974; the inauguration of the Asilah festival in Morocco in 1978 as both folkloric village and site for radical South-South collaboration; and the creation of the Egyptian art collective Mehwar in 1981 in response to the "Coca-Cola and Chiclets” of market liberalization. All were conducted against dramatic structural changes to local economies. And in them, artists’ collective efforts no longer had to do with the goal of entering modernity at will, but rather with inscribing new sites of creative action in an otherwise coercive international art world. Together, these cases offer the contemporary art historian an opportunity to explore the notion of solidarity anew, and to scrutinize the stakes of artistic work in non-capitalist conditions. The talk is drawn from a longer research project that - spurred by new museum projects in the Gulf states - explores the Arab liberation struggles of the 1960s and 1970s as a prehistory to the global art world of the present.

    Anneka Lenssen is assistant professor of global modern art here in the History of Art Department. She writes on modern and contemporary art, with a particular specialization in the cultural politics of the Middle East. Current projects include a co-edited volume of writings on art from the Arab world (International Program of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 2017) and a book-length study of avant-garde formations of painting in Syria under new regimes of political representation, 1940s-1960s. 

  • The Object at Center: Visual Evidence and Research Paths from Dissertation to Book

    Ping Foong

    Informal talk and discussion with Professor Ping Foong.

    Professor Foong received her PhD from Princeton University in 2006. Her dissertation was on the Northern Song landscape paintings of Guo Xi. She will be introducing her research and presenting her experience of turning a doctoral dissertation into a book. She is visiting Berkeley for the year, teaching The Classical Painting Tradition of China this fall and Arts of China in the spring. Come say hello! Drinks and snacks will be provided.

  • Modern Money: Aesthetics After the Gold Standard (Day Two)

    Until 6:00 pm | 11/07/2014

    Yanis Varoufakis will deliver a talk entitled, "Post-Modern Money: On the Nature and Aesthetics of Money after 2008."  The talk will be followed by open discussion.

  • The Ends of American Art

    "The Ends of American Art" is a conference taking place at Stanford University, organized by one of our former PhD students, Beth Bennett, and includes presentations by former Berkeley History of Art students as well as one of our current PhD students, Diana Greenwold

  • Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills (1962)

    Modern Money: Aesthetics After the Gold Standard (Day One)

    Until 6:00 pm | 11/06/2014

    November 6 || 10:00 am-6:00 pm
    November 7 || 3:00 pm-6:00 pm
    308A Doe Library

    Organized by Jordan Rose (Berkeley) and Scott Ferguson (University of South Florida)

    “Money,” T. J. Clark has written, “is the root form of representation in bourgeois society. Threats to monetary value are threats to signification in general." Clark's proposition, almost aphoristic in its phrasing, turns on the kinds of questions it raises, about markets and money flows, about value and its abstraction, about whom money belongs to, about the “social reality of the Sign” and the effect money has on art-making. By the statement’s end, money becomes a central form – maybe the central form – of modern life. Over the last 15 years – the sentences come from 1999’s Farewell to an Idea – the urgency of Clark's questions has only intensified, obliging us, in turn, to confront them anew. “Modern Money” initiates this process by asking participants to consider the effect a turn toward state and credit theories of money – away, as it were, from the standard commodity theories – has on our dealings with art and aesthetics. What happens, in other words, to our understanding of value, and of social practice, if we come to recognize some distance between the social relations of the production of commodities and the social relations of the production of money?

    The first day, the 6th, will consist of three panels addressing the art and money nexus. The second, which turns the table, will feature a talk by Yanis Varoufakis (Professor of Economics, University of Athens, and Visiting Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin).

    A multimedia installation by Danae Stratou will accompany the conference. (November 3-November 7, 308A Doe Library)

    Sponsored by the Department of History of Art. Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Arts Research Center, the Department of Rhetoric, and the Department of History.

    Conference Schedule

    9:30-10:00 – Breakfast/Coffee

    10:00-10:10 – Introduction

    10:10-11:30 – Panel One

    Todd Barnes (Ramapo College of New Jersey), “Striking Our Debt to Moral Tragedy: Money in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar'”

    Edwin Harvey (Miami University), “(Silver) Dollars: A Chartalist Iconography of Charles Willson Peale’s Mrs. Thomas McKean”

    11:30-1:00 – Lunch

    1:00-2:50 – Panel Two

    Richard Taws (University College London), “Paris in Code: Signs of Value in Post-Revolutionary France”

    Jordan Rose (University of California, Berkeley), “The Debtor’s Frockcoat”

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (University of California, Berkeley), “Paper, Metal and the Civil War”

    2:50-3:30 – Coffee break

    3:30-5:20 – Panel Three

    Danny Marcus (University of California, Berkeley) and Daniel Spaulding (Yale University), “Modernism and Capitalism, a Correspondence”

    Cecilia Wee (Royal College of Art), “If Information Makes Money, Does Sharing Destroy It?”

    Scott Ferguson (University of South Florida), “Risking Abstraction”

    5:20-6:00 – Reception

  • Glenn Ligon, Malcolm X (Version 1) #1, 2000. Vinyl-based paint, silkscreen ink, and gesso on canvas. 96 × 72 in.

    On the Queering of Post-Black Art: TWGCA Lecture

    Derek Conrad Murray, Associate Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture, UCSC

    Through a critical investigation of the controversial and polarizing notion of post-black, this lecture will explore the impact that sexual politics and queer identities have on our understanding of blackness as a set of visual, cultural, and intellectual concerns. The re-articulation of African-American identity emergent in contemporary art suggests that the visual markers of hetero-normative blackness have failed to represent the lives and identities of individuals whose gender and sexual orientations often position them outside dominant understandings of black identity. The aim of this paper is to produce new and innovative interpretive possibilities that will elucidate the specific conceptual, aesthetic, and political concerns of post-Civil Rights generation visual artists.

    Derek Conrad Murray is an interdisciplinary theorist specializing in the history, theory and criticism of contemporary art. He holds a Ph.D. in art history from Cornell University. Murray is currently Assistant Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His book, Regarding Difference: Contemporary African-American Art and the Politics of Recognition, will be published by Manchester University Press in 2015, as part of the series Rethinking Art’s Histories (eds. Amelia Jones and Marsha Meskimmon). Murray is also in the process of completing his second book entitled Queering Post-Black Art: Rethinking African-American Identity After Civil Rights, forthcoming from I.B. Tauris (UK). 

    This lecture is presented by the Townsend Working Group in Contemporary Art, which seeks to broaden conversations about contemporary art across departments, disciplines and institutions. Our meetings feature speakers sharing their recent work or spotlighting current issues in contemporary art. We are grateful to the Townsend Center for the Humanities for their support.

  • Practice and Invention in the 15th Century

    C. Jean Campbell, Emory University

    The lecture is sponsored by the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies.  It will be followed by a seminar on Friday, October 24, on "Pisanello and the Archaeology of a Name."  The seminar will take place at noon in 308B Doe Library.

    Professor Campbell is the Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Art History at Emory University.

  • Rethinking Materialism: The Althusserian Swerve

    Banu Bargu, The New School for Social Research

    The posthumously published writings of Louis Althusser reveal an effort, however fragmentary, to rethink materialism on the basis of contingency and the absence of teleology. Althusser argues that there is a subterranean tradition in philosophy, which he calls aleatory materialism, a tradition that has resisted the rationalist and necessitarian tendencies of dominant idealisms and materialisms (that are also idealist). In his attempt to excavate this tradition, Althusser alludes to a dizzying range of thinkers, such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Marx, Derrida, and Deleuze, as he gestures to pinpoint the diverse ways in which they can be seen to constitute this neglected tradition. The Marx that figures in this tradition, of course, is a radically reconfigured one, distanciated not only from its Hegelian incarnations but also from the “mature” Marx emblematic of high Althusserianism. Crucial to this reconstruction, both of aleatory materialism and the new Marx in it, is the recuperation of the atomistic materialism of Epicurean (and Lucretian) inflection with the emphasis on the swerve. This paper investigates Althusser’s dual “swerve” from historical materialism to atomistic materialism and from the mature Marx to the young-est Marx, whose earliest work is a doctoral dissertation on Democritus and Epicurus. The paper reads this shift as an attempt to open up a different trajectory of political thinking after Marxism as well as a potent symptom of the rupture in Althusser’s own thought, a rupture that calls for a reassessment of Althusser’s legacy for critical theory. 

    This presentation is sponsored by the Department of Rhetoric and hosted by the Department of History of Art.

  • Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America

    Erika Doss

    Erika Doss is Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in American, modern, and contemporary art. She is the author of Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991), Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (1999), Looking at Life Magazine (editor, 2001), Twentieth-Century American Art (2002), and Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010). Doss is also co-editor of the "Culture America" series at the University Press of Kansas, and is on the editorial boards of Memory Studies, Public Art Dialogue, and Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. Her current research project is Spiritual Moderns: Twentieth Century American Artists and Religion

  • Counterfeit Money, Starring Patty Hearst

    Byron Hamann

    The Townsend Working Group in Colonial Latin American Art, Literature, and Visual Culture is sponsoring a lecture by Byron HamannAssistant Professor of the History of Art at The Ohio State University. 

    Spanning Mexico City, Jingdezhen, the Alexander Archipelago, Southern California, Cuzco, and Manila, this talk will explore the non-monetary uses of money in the Pacific World circa 1800. Historically, of course, “counterfeit” did not necessarily have the negative “forgery-falsification” connotations it has today. Counterfeiting could just mean copying, or, etymologically, “to make in opposition or contrast.” “Counterfeit Money, Starring Patty Hearst” imagines an inaugural exhibition at the Patty Hearst Museum of Anthropology, an exhibit centered on objects made from or inspired by coin money—that is, objects made in contrast to the usefulness of coinage as token of exchange. Surviving artifacts, as well as narrative accounts of Russian, English, and Spanish merchants involved in "the China trade," will be used to create a new kind of It-Narrative chronicling the adventures of coins as they traverse varied imperial and cultural landscapes to interact with porcelain boxes, baskets, wooden masks, and leather jackets.


  • Who is Afraid of Mimesis?: Contesting the Common Sense of Indian Aesthetics through the Theory of ‘Mimesis’ or Anukaraņa Vâda

    Parul Dave-Mukherji

    A talk by Parul Dave-Mukherji, Professor, Department of Visual Studies, School of the Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.  The event is hosted by the Institute for South Asia Studies at U.C. Berkeley.

    The study of Indian aesthetics has long suffered from the twin burden of colonial and nationalist definitions of aesthetics, steeped in a binary opposition between the West and India. This double legacy has led to a cultural myopia concerning a vibrant discourse around “mimesis” or anukrti preserved in Abhinavabharati on the account of its presumed affinity with the Western mimesis. Anukŗti, - a term cognate to mimesis- similar but not quite the same, constituted one of the central concerns of aesthetics and poetics from the time of the Natyasastra, the ur text on dramaturgy by Bharata of around the first century CE, until 11th century CE when Abhinavagupta formulated a resounding demolition of this theory or Anukarana-vada in his commentary on the same text. Critiquing Indian historiography’s dismissal of this theory, my talk will bring into focus this overlooked discourse by staging a conversation between the supporters and the critics of Anukarana vada and reflect on its relevance for the comparable mimetic terminology that appears in the Silpasastras.

    The talk will consists of 3 sections, the first two will relate with problems of engaging with Anukarana vada today through critical historiography and the problematic of translation while the last will attempt to revisit the debates and discourse surrounding this theory in the Abhinavabharati through the lens of comparative aesthetics and contemporary theory.

    Parul Dave-Mukherji is a professor and former dean (2006-2013) at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She holds a PhD in Indology from Oxford University where she worked on a critical edition of The Citrasutra of the Visnudharmottara Purana (Motital Banarsidass, New Delhi, 2002). Earlier, she taught at the Department of Art History and Aesthetics, Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University in Baroda. From 2002, she became the co-convener of the Forum on Contemporary Theory and co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary Thought. As a recipient of the British Academy award, 2011, she was affiliated with Goldsmiths College, London to conduct research on globalization and Art Theory.

    She is on the executive committee of International Association of Aesthetics (2002-2010); editorial board of Journal of World Art (East Anglia University); Journal of Contemporary Thought (India); and International Journal of Visual Culture (USA).

    Her publications include Towards A New Art History: Studies in Indian Art (co-edited), New Delhi, 2003; “Putting the World in a Book: How Global Can Art History Be Today,” in Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration and Convergence, ed. J Anderson, Melbourne, 2009. Her recent publications include “The Making of Sakuntala: The Erotica and the Paradox of Representation” in Revisiting Abhijananasakuntalam: Love, Lineage and Language in Kalidasa’s Nataka, eds. Saswati Sengupta and Deepika Tandon, New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2011; “Popular Festivals, Populist Visual Culture and Modi Masks” in Democratic culture: historical and philosophical essays, ed. Akeel Bilgrami, New Delhi: Routledge, 2011; InFlux- Contemporary Art in Asia, (co-edited) New Delhi, Sage, 2013; “Art History and Its Discontents in Global Times” in Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn, eds. Jill H Cassid and Aruna D’Souza, Massachusetts: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2014.

    Her forthcoming publications include an ASA volume Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalizing World, co-edited with Ramindar Kaur, London: Bloomsbury, 2014; 20th Century Indian Art, coedited with Partha Mitter and Rakhee Balaram, Skira, 2015; “Entangled Temporality: Contemporary Indian Artists and Their Retakes on the “Golden” Age in In the Shadow of the Golden Age: Art and Identity in Asia from Gandhara to the Modern Age, ed. Julia Hegewald, Berlin: E B Verlag. As a recipient of the Clark fellowship (September-Decmeber 2014), she will work on Anukrtivada or theory of performative mimesis found in a 10th century CE Sanskrit commentary, Abhinavabharati by Abhinavagupta , which was overlooked by nationalist art historians for its alleged affinity with Greek theory of mimesis.  

  • Art History in India and Its Discontents in Global Times

    Parul Dave-Mukherji

    "What becomes of art history when the world shrinks into a planet? Globalization has posed a challenge as much to Eurocentric art histories in the west as to nationalist art histories in India. How does one evolve a narrative for Indian art when the logic of the narrative itself is at stake? Drawing from current debates about the impact of globalization on art history and art writing, I will assess their relevance for Indian art history and art practice. I will examine how cultural studies turn that helped widen the constituency of art objects via an anthropological understanding of art and how this paved the way for New art history in India and finally for visual studies in its wake.

    This paper will also explore the relationship between contemporary art practice and the critical tools of art history via the political and argue for a closer sync between the two as contemporary art with its experiments with temporality and spatiality, more in tune with globalized times, has much to offer to art history and visual studies. The anthropological turn has also made us relook at art historiography and its two axis of mapping art practice through time and space. Is there a shift from the “when” to the “where” of art in contemporary art historiography and what does it say about the state of art history in India?"

    Parul Dave-Mukherji is a Professor and former Dean (2006-2013) at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She holds a PhD in Indology from Oxford University where she worked on a critical edition of The Citrasutra of the Visnudharmottara Purana (Motital Banarsidass, New Delhi, 2002). Earlier, she taught at the Department of Art History and Aesthetics, Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University in Baroda. From 2002, she became the co-convener of the Forum on Contemporary Theory and co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary Thought. As a recipient of the British Academy Award in 2011, she was affiliated with Goldsmiths College, London to conduct research on globalization and art theory.


  • In My Backyard: Conversations with Art History Neighbors

    Gwen Allen, Victoria Lyall, and Valerie Soe from San Francisco State University, Department of Art and Department of Asian Studies, and the Museum Studies Program, in conversation with Berkeley History of Art faculty.

  • Representing Our Urban Diversity: Romare Bearden's Berkeley—The City and its People (1973)

    Lauren Kroiz

    As part of "Reading Cities, Sensing Cities: A Global Urban Humanities Interdisciplinary Colloquium," Assistant Professor Lauren Kroiz will present on Romare Bearden's Berkeley mural, an important work of public art that is the source of the ubiquitous multi-ethnic logo found on everything from City of Berkeley trucks to stationery and brochures.  The colloquium is part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, a joint project of the Arts & Humanities Division and the College of Environmental Design. Our aim with this speaker series is to provide a gathering place where people from different disciplines can learn about each other’s work on global cities. Kroiz's presentation will reflect on the relationship of painting, the construction of place, and regional planning. In her Fall 2014 course Regionalism, Nationalism, Globalism, Kroiz examines critical models of place and its influence developed in the twentieth and twenty-first century, exploring authors and artists including Lewis Mumford, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Thomas Hart Benton, and Richard Diebenkorn. Kroiz's current research focuses on the ways regionalist educational projects linked art and citizenship in the United States during the 1930s and 40s.

    Kroiz's book Creative Composites: Race, Modernism, and the Stieglitz Circle, was awarded the 2010 Phillips Book Prize and was published by University of California Press in 2012.  

  • History of Art 2014 Commencement

    Please visit our Commencement Page for more information.