Moving the Goalposts

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1The author discusses the consequences of the academicisation of the social history of art, the way in which a project that was initially a response to pressing issues both inside and outside the academy has become increasingly institutionalised. To restore a wider relevance, he argues the need to open art history to the requirements of a contemporary ‘global imperative’, to play its part in the study of a global field of visual culture. But this is not simply a question of expanding the remit of existing art history. The focus is on the consequences for emergent world art studies of a critical engagement with the legacy of both modernism and conceptual art. The author considers four aspects of this: the impact of the decline of modernist binaries of ‘high/low’, and of ‘mainstream/provincial’, the idea of the autonomy of art, and contrasting definitions of the nature of ‘art’ itself.
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