The idea of art history represents a historical framework that is based in the inherent identity of the culture from which it is being expressed. In this way, there are numerous ways of characterizing the ways in which these various cultures can express themselves. By establishing a coherent representation of the historical importance of art in politics and culture, the establishment of this perspective is ultimately refocused into the framework from which it emerges.
In the essay “Whither Art History In a Globalizing World” by Parul Dave Mukherji discusses the subject of art history, its definition, and its place and importance in a rapidly changing world. He argues that the evolution of this perspective is what characterizes the very nature of art history. In this sense, he is discussing the ideas that establish the legitimacy of the subect itself. Through the observations that he discusses, it becomes apparent that the evolution of art will have the result of becoming enamored in the present institutions that it represents.
The main point that is being discussed in this essay focuses upon this idea. Not only that art history is informed by perspectives of the individuals that study art, but that it is informed and expressed by the art itself. This is represented by Mukherji’s discussions of how these works have been presented throughout history. The main thesis of the essay focuses on this very question. The author makes the claim that where art is currently at within its history is just as important as where it will find its place in the future.
In this sense, Mukherji is making the argument that the expanding world has caused the importance and credibility of art history to emerge as an important study due to the rising interest in art that has come along with the expansion of those who have the capacity to enjoy it. As the middle class has grown, so has the interest that people have in art, as so many people are able to meet the basic necessities, which is a prerequisite for the social interest in art that has arisen.
In this way, the focus of art shifted from the elite to the everyday people. This shift represented a fundamental alteration of what the path of art history would become. “Until that point, the discipline of art history was dominated by cultural nationalists, who, in their search for past civilizational glory, were impervious to the politics of representation and oblivious to questions of gender and caste.” (152) Within this perspective, the historical framework that surrounds the study of art can be seen as originating in this shift of interest from the elite to the everyday.
There has been quite a bit that has already been written on the subject of art history and its importance in society at the time of the article. This is the point that the author was making. They were attempting to survey the history of how the meaning of art has changed throughout the years in order to come to a more informed conclusion concerning where it will go in the future.
This is what distinguishes the article from those that came previously. The author is attempting to create a unified idea of the subject that he is studying. In this way, Mukherji hopes to help to define the path that it will eventually take. By laying out the way that the subject has grown, it becomes more apparent in which way it will grow in the future. Through his discussion, he elaborates on not only how he perceives this study to originate, but where he expects it to go as well.
His ideas are, furthermore, informed by the interdisciplinary focus that he attributes within the text. This idea shifts the focus to not only the history of art history, but also the focus of how the subject has been approached by others in its own history. “The project of a “New Art History” arose at this moment, and it owed its emergence to a cross-disciplinary conversation between art history and literary theory” (152) In this sense, the emergence of this interaction between differing disciplines has allowed the subject to flourish even futher.
In defining and addressing the questions within this essay, the author utilizes both new and old materials. Mukherji presents his arguments through the lens of a large historical framework. “The burning question in studies in global art history has been whether non-Western art history can be studied through native intellectual frameworks.” (154) In this way, the author addresses the fundamental issues involved with studying art history while enamored in the biases of one’s own culture.
Mukherji, Parul Dave. Whither Art History in a Globalizing World. Art Bulletin.
Jun2014, Vol. 96 Issue 2, p151-155.