About the relation of art history and art

Hello guys,

recently I thought a little more about art and its perception in art history and as I started reading a very interesting book, too, I wanted to share my thoughts and conclusions with you. The book is called ‘What is “Islamic” Art?’, Between Religion and Perception and is written by Wendy M. K. Shaw.

I haven’t got so far yet because it is a very academic approach to the subject but the first chapters made me already determine two things concerning the relation between art history and art:

  1. Art history is applicable to a very small part of the world’s art because “the modern idea of art displaced objects from a religious system of meaning to a secular one” and therefore “what we call ‘Western art’ is ‘European Christian art’ by a new name.”
    (Extracted from: Shaw, Wendy M. K. (2019): What is ‘Islamic’ Art. Cambridge. p. 7 and 8)
    Hence it is unfair to call some artworks affiliated to the canon and some not if the only legitimation for that is a so-called objective approach.
    We all know that objectivity exists just in theory and this book makes also clear that in case of art history the objectivity means a Western Christian view on the world.
  2. Even if it is convenient for an art historian to “read” in an artwork all the things like social and chronological background, the art can exist by itself without any problems, without the need of art history.
    And the reasons for making art – even if they are not acknowledged by art history – are all legitimate.

That means different from what I was told for example in the Academy of Fine Arts my art does NOT have to be set in relation to the contemporary art discourse. At least if it is not my aim to study art there.

I make art.
Some will call it art, some not, but I finally understood what I already felt sometimes while studying art history and even more at the beginning of my art journey.
It’s not important what the canon says while creating because I can’t just take care of the meta-level of art or its concepts/constructs behind.
I create art because I feel the inner need for doing so and because I want to see what art makes with me. I want to express my feelings I have of the world through art in the way I like to and in the way I am able to. And I think I don’t have to feel guilty for making it like this, right?

So, what are my conclusions for today?
Maybe these:

  1. Art will always be art if the artist feels like this about it.
  2. I would love to be called ‘artist of the world’ in the sense of an egalitarian art – even if I know that this seems impossible at the moment.
  3. I’m maybe not a good art historian OR I am a very good one, because I try to promote an art history that is applicable to more types of arts than it is currently.

What are your thoughts and theses about this subject?
Please let me know in the comments below or on instagram.

Stay happy and creative!
Yours, Thea

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