Courses / Fall 2020

Fall 2020

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    Course Number: HA 17 | CCN: 33197

    Art—Take, Break, and Fake It

    Gregory Levine

    Tuesday, Thursday: 12:30-2:00pm

    Why do people steal art, destroy art, and fake art? These are not behaviors we usually associate with artistic creativity,beauty, and history. Is art theft, destruction, and forgery the “dark side” of Art as an embodiment of human cultural achievement? 

    Or, do these behaviors—possessive, violent, and deceitful as they may be—help us understand the significance of visual and material cultures and how different communities respond to the purposeful things we call art? Are these behaviors the “flip-side” of the art coin?

    This new course introduces the study of art not simply in terms of artists, periods, content, and style, but in relation to acts of looting/theft, iconoclasm/vandalism, and forgery. Although they seem contradictory to the importance of art in human culture, these behaviors open up unexpected ways to think about “the artist,” “aesthetics,” and “history.” And they reveal “companion concepts” such as whole/fragment and original/copy, and they expose relations of power operating in and around artworks—religious, legal, imperial, national, economic, and so on. Global in its range, the course addresses episodes of taking, breaking, and faking from the ancient world to the present. It also introduces related topics such as empire, image destruction and revolution, cultural heritage, international treaties and art law, and the question of authenticity.

    The course is open to all students with majors or interests in history, art history, law, anthropology, film studies, art practice, business, the sciences, and beyond. There is no prerequisite.

    This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Non-Western, or Western, based on the topic of the final assignment.

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