Belting the End of the History of Art

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Transcript of Belting the End of the History of Art

The

E n d of the History of Art?

Translated by Christopher S. Wood

Hans Belting

is professor of the history of art at the University of Munich.HANS BELTING

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, CHICAGO 60637 THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, LTD., LONDON

1987 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 1987 Printed in the United States of America 96 95 94 93 92 91 90 89 88 87 54321 Originally published by Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich, 1983. The present edition is revised and translated from the second edition, Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich, 1984.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Belting, Hans. The end of the history of art? Rev. translation of: Das Ende der Kunstgeschichte? 2nd ed. Bibliography: p. 1. ArtHistoriography. 2. Art criticism Historiography. I. Title. N380.B4413 1987 707'.2 86-24937 ISBN 0-226-04217-0

Contents

Preface

vii

1 The End of the History of Art?Reflections on Contemporary Art and Contemporary Art History 1

2 Vasari and His LegacyThe History of Art as a Process? Notes 65 95

Preface

Study of art. Yet every time that apparently inevitable end was lamented, things nevertheless carried on, and usually in an entirely new direction. Art is produced today in undiminished volume; the academic discipline, too, survives, although with less vitality and more self-doubt than ever. What does stand seriously in question is that conception of a universal and unified "history of a r t " which has so long served, in different ways, both artist and art historian. Artists today often decline to participate in an ongoing history of art at all. In so doing they detach themselves from a tradition of thought which was after all initiated by an artist, Giorgio Vasari, and in many ways for artists, a tradition which provided artists with a common program. Art historians appeared on the scene only much later. Today they either accept a model of history which they did not themselves devise, or shun the task of establishing a new model because they cannot. Both the artist and the art historian have lost faith in a rational, teleological process of artistic history, a process to be carried out by the one and described by the other. The perplexity arising from this situation is not necessarily to be regretted, for it can incite the artist toward new objectives and the art historian toward new questions. What seemed for so long self-evidentthe commitment to the concept of an all-embracing, universal "history" of artsuddenly strikes us as peculiar. But to reflect on the demise of a history of art is surely not to prophesy the end of the discipline of art history. Our theme is rather the emancipation from received models of the historical presentation of art, an emancipation often achieved in practice but seldom reflected upon. These models were for the mo