Art and Art History 398. Experimental Courses
What do a bust of Nefertiti, an exhibition of plasticized human bodies, and former US Senator Jesse Helms have in common? They are all related, in one way or another, to controversies in the museum world. This seminar course will explore a number of case studies of museum controversies, ranging from the repatriation of objects (or lack thereof) to the Body Worlds phenomenon, from censorship to forgeries, and from “failed” exhibitions, such as Into the Heart of Africa, to avant-garde museum architecture. We will consider why such controversies arise, how they develop over time, and what we can learn from them, particularly with regard to the roles played by museums historically and in contemporary societies.
Matisse and Methods
This seminar will focus on Henri Matisse (1869-1954) using his work as a lens to explore the methods of art history. The vast literature on Matisse provides us with a range of writers asking different questions of the artist’s work. Our critical consideration of the methodologies used to read Matisse’s work (formalist, structuralist, psychoanalytic, feminist, postcolonial, for example) will be in service to a semester-long research project focusing on the theories of representation informing the artist’s work. Questions posed in seminar discussion will include: How have scholars interpreted Matisse’s appropriations from other artists, other media (photography, for example) and other cultural traditions (African, Islamic, Oceanic for example)? Have these approaches adequately addressed the complex relationships between Matisse’s work, its cultural context, and the critical concepts informing his practice? The seminar is designed for majors as preparation for graduate work, but non-majors are equally welcome.