Oct. 1-14, 2004
Back Issues
Meyers gives Curry $22 million
Weiss to head Hem-One division
Microsoft gives $3 million to Darden/Curry program
Nursing School establishes rural health care effort
Making good health of world’s poor
Hereford’s half-century: Former president remembered as link between U.Va.’s past and future
Faculty Senate explores collaborations at retreat
Football game Oct. 7 will limit parking
Employees show they care
Art History — Mixing it up
Press launches first electronic imprint
U.Va. presents five-day Afropop festival
Nobel lecture series begins Oct. 11
Pulitzer prize-winner to speak at Law School
Never forget: ROTC honors fallen, missing comrades


Art History — mixing it up

By Jane Ford

Although David Summers is an expert on Michelangelo and Renaissance art, his philosophy of understanding art history incorporates all traditions — European and non-European — on an equal footing.

Exhibit offers new perspective on art

Walking into the “Museum: Conditions and Spaces” exhibit at the U.Va. Art Museum one is immediately struck that something different is
going on.

The exhibit encompasses works from the museum’s collection that span ancient artifacts through modernist artworks but the focus is not on chronology. Rather the exhibit embraces a new way of considering art, developed by David Summers, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art History.

Works shown in the exhibit were selected from those highlighted in the museum’s collections handbook, which features entries by curators, faculty, graduate students and other historians.
The exhibit runs through Sunday, Oct. 17.

Summers will give a gallery talk on two consecutive Sundays: Oct. 3 and 10 at 2 p.m.

In his book, “Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism,” Summers formulates a new language of principles and categories to theorize and teach intercultural art history. It’s an approach that makes possible a meaningful comparison of all traditions of art using the same criteria, said Summers, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art History. The approach makes it “possible to walk in each other’s moccasins, so to speak.”

Summers’ approach incorporates more than aesthetics. “Works of art look the way they look because of the purposes for which they were made, not just for aesthetic reasons,” he said.

The idea for the book began to germinate several decades ago, when Summers was a Yale graduate student. He visited Mexico on an anthropological tour and encountered a sculpture so horrific he wondered why it had been made. It wasn’t until 1989, after writing books on the Renaissance and Michelangelo, that he began putting his ideas about world art history to paper.

Summers said he “duked it out with Kant and other philosophers,” wrestling with theoretical bases of aesthetics, image, nature, man’s place in the world and the development of cultures to arrive at his book on world art history.

Summers has put the book’s theoretical and practical applications to the test in the classroom and in the U.Va. Art Museum through a co-curated exhibit.

Curator presents museum collection in novel way

Andrea Douglas began forming her view of art history and an approach to how art might be presented in museums long before she became U.Va. Art Museum curator in January.

For a post-doctoral project, she created a catalog of the museum’s
collection, which involves the collaboration of 16 U.Va. scholars and

The results, “The Museum: Conditions and Spaces,” highlights more than 100 works in the museum’s permanent collection using criteria set by art professor David Summers. (See above article.)

Douglas shares Summers’ interest in the inclusion of artwork created outside the traditional European art history lexicon. She is an expert on identity politics and the art of the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. Summers was one of her Ph.D. advisers.

As catalog editor, Douglas asked artists and art historians to write about works in the collection, some of which had never before been written about critically.

“Summers’ approach has an accessibility,” Douglas said. “Here is a language we can use to talk about … all kinds of objects.”

The comparative aspect of the approach facilitates various ways of presenting the museum’s collection, which is broad but not deep in many art periods, Douglas added.

Douglas and Summers co-curated the exhibit “Museums: Conditions and Spaces” using the ideas Summers sets out in his book. In museums, ancient art is usually seen with ancient art; Impressionist works, with other Impressionist art. When you have works displayed in a comparative context, juxtaposing periods and media, “you notice things you might not have,” she said.

“I want visitors and others, over time, to see and question differently,”
Douglas said. “I want museum visitors to become involved in the questions of how do we see and how do we know the world.”


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