College Art Association Virtual Conference
Historians of British Art Panel;
"A New Story About British Culture?: The Rhetoric of Display"
February 10-13, 2021
Julie Codell, Arizona State University
The Metropolitan Museum's $22 million reorganization of its British galleries and 2020 re-opening of its 11,000 square feet devoted to British decorative arts, design, and sculpture created between 1500 and 1900 evokes a rethinking of British visual culture and its modes of display. Panelists may investigate the themes of this reorganization in the Met's exhibition or in other transforming exhibitions in any institutions in the UK or its colonies from the past until now: (1)the colonial roots of British material culture, (2)the commercialism driving British design, and (3)socio-political hierarchic relations among cultural objects and their producers. In this panel we will examine these topics within the overarching consideration of the rhetoric of display: how display narrates/represents intertwined economic and aesthetic values or the connections among culture, empire, and slavery. Topics may include (but are not limited to) how displays of British cultural objects:
- have sanitized, justified, dismissed and/or exposed colonial/imperial dark sides;
- shape an object's cross-cultural, colonial interpretation;
- inflect the historiography about objects' colonial sources or commercial aspirations;
- represent or aestheticize commercial or entrepreneurial motives;
- ignore or reveal objects' market identities and economies;
- represent gender or race as central to or external to the production of decorative and sculptural objects.
- The effects of the Met's reorganization on:
- re-interpretations or re-contextualizations of individual objects;
- the "unsung heroes," Met curator Wolf Burchard's phrase, of British crafts in contexts of commerce, design, empire or the hierarchy of objects.
Send a 250-word proposal & one-page CV by SEPTEMBER 16 , 2020 to Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org