The Art Historical Canon and its Functions

Date: October 5 – 7, 2006
Venue: Hamburg, Germany

The European Science Foundation network Discourses of the Visible – National and International Perspectives concludes its series of workshops and symposia on key issues in art history and visual culture with a workshop on the question of the canon and the canonical.

The concept and existence of a canon of works of art, having been central to the study and teaching of art and the history of art for centuries, has come under attack at least since the 1980s. It still is, however, the hub of the traditions and the teaching of art history in many European countries, as it still shapes public perception of ‘Art’. Today canonical works of art are referred to more than ever and do not seem to have lost any of the aura bestowed on them by the cult of the genius of the 19th century and their canonical status. The notion of the canon also informs the scholarly production of the discipline both in the past and today, as in the form of the catalogue raisonné, for instance, or the critical edition of visual and textual sources. At the same time, the canon has changed over time; those changes are brought about by contemporary art practice as well as evolving and changing visual cultures.

We are inviting contributions on questions around these themes: How does the canon still inform academic work on the visual and the arts today? How and why does the canon change over time? Are there different national canons? How does contemporary art constitute its own canon?

Speakers are requested to submit a 200-word proposal for a 30-minute talk by August 31, 2006 to Charlotte Schoell Glass ( and Hubert Locher ( Please include a curriculum vitae, indicating recent publications, your current position, and your institution. The working language will be English, but participants may also present in French or German, provided that an English-language version of their presentation is available in advance of the workshop.