Art History Matters
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
On Friday, May 31st, the Department of Art History held an event during the University of Toronto’s 2019 Alumni Reunion Week. The event, “Art History: Why Does It Matter?” drew together nine faculty members as well as twenty art professionals from across six sectors for a day of discussion and deliberation.
The six sectors represented included:
- Research and Educational Institutions
- Private and Corporate Collecting
- Information, Engagement, and Outreach
- Art Publication and Media
- Public and Museum Curating and Management
- Art Historians as Practicing Artists
Over one-hundred-and-fifty participants signed up for the event and had the option to learn about two of the six sectors during the breakout sessions. The lunch roundtable was an engaging and thoughtful discussion focused on answering two key questions: 1. Why does art history matter? 2. What is the future of art history?
As one of our participants noted, “In the meany years that I have been at the University of Toronto, I have never witnessed such a generous mingling and mixing of UofT Art History faculty–from across all three campuses at that. It was the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to hear [faculty members and colleagues] speak about what mattered to them, about Art History. It was a wonderful occasion.”
The event was accompanied by a virtual exhibition featuring eight artists, highlighting the relationship between image culture and art history. Artworks from the exhibition were digitally displayed throughout the day and an exhibition catalogue was created to commemorate the event.
The Department of Art History would like to thank everyone who attended and participated in “Art History: Why Does It Matter?” and hope to see you all at future Art History events. We were pleased to create an inviting atmosphere for the exchange of information, ideas, and opinions. The Department would also like to extend its utmost appreciation to our graduate students and members of GUStA, in particular Samantha Chang and Brittany Myburgh, for organizing a wonderful and successful event.
Workshop on Architectural History and Media
Friday, March 22, 2019
This February, scholars from Canada, Europe, and the United States convened at the Department of Art History for a workshop entitled “Building Communication: Architectural History and Media Archaeology.” On the agenda: the state of historical research on architectural environments that were designed—or can productively be understood—as communication systems.
Left to right: Joseph L. Clarke (University of Toronto Art History) and Mary Louise Lobsinger (University of Toronto John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design). Photo: Alexa Breininger.
“This workshop builds on the University of Toronto’s world-class programs in architectural history and its legacy of groundbreaking research on media,” said Assistant Professor Joseph L. Clarke, who conceived the event and organized it with the support of a Connaught New Researcher Award. “It was a terrific opportunity for historians of architecture and media to get together and reimagine the relationship between our academic fields.”
The discipline of media archaeology emerged in the late twentieth century as scholars developed new methods for the historical study of communication technologies such as movable type, cinema, and radio. More recently, emerging scholars in architectural history have applied these approaches to their own investigations, such as Clarke’s work on the history of acoustics.
Although the field of media archaeology has especially flourished in Germany, it also has roots in the work of the late University of Toronto professor Marshall McLuhan. Given this connection, it was appropriate that “Building Communication” took place in the historic Coach House building where McLuhan once held his weekly seminars, now home to the university’s McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology.
Left to right: Mary Louise Lobsinger (University of Toronto Daniels Faculty), Carl Knappett (University of Toronto Art History), and Rafico Ruiz (University of Alberta). Photo: Alexa Breininger.
The day began with opening remarks by Professor and Department Chair Carl Knappett. After that, Clarke laid out a series of questions for discussion:
- How has architecture helped make (or attempted to make, or conspicuously failed to make) communication possible?
- In what ways have architecture’s form and function changed as it has become implicated in new circuits of information transfer?
- How have the communicative ideals and ambitions associated with technical media been complicated by the uncanny persistence of the “old media” of buildings?
Each participant presented one current research endeavour. Several of these presentations focused on the influence of cybernetics on architecture in the 1960s, particularly in the design of offices and universities. Other topics included the architecture of radio stations, the figure of the corridor in the modern novel, the architectural history of wires, and reading the melting of arctic ice as a media event.
Pictured: John Harwood (University of Toronto Daniels Faculty), Rafico Ruiz (University of Alberta), Emily Doucet (University of Toronto Art History), Jan Claas van Treeck (Humboldt University of Berlin), Mary Louise Lobsinger (University of Toronto Daniels Faculty), Kate Marshall (University of Notre Dame), Jordan Bear (University of Toronto Art History). Photo: Alexa Breininger.
Several faculty members and graduate students from the Department of Art History participated in the workshop. Since the department’s founding in 1935, the history of architecture has played a vital role in its teaching and research. Today, the exceptional breadth of faculty expertise in the department makes it possible to have wide-ranging conversations about architecture that leap across chronological, geographic, and methodological boundaries. “Events like this workshop help the Art History Department remain at the centre of current discussions in the study of architecture,” said Clarke.
Alumni Feature: Angelica Demetriou
Friday, February 22, 2019
Starting a business is demanding and high-risk, and it can be especially daunting in the years immediately following graduate school. But for one U of T alumna, building a thriving arts business came as a natural next step in an impressive, swift-moving career. Less than a decade ago, Angelica Demetriou joined U of T’s Department of Art as an MA student. Today, she is a powerhouse in the art world with a trail of accomplishments behind her.
Angelica is co-founder and Principal of K+D—the only company in Canada providing a full-range of cataloguing and art consulting services to private, corporate and institutional collectors. Angelica and her business partner, Megan Kalaman, began working together in 2017 to fill a gap in the market. Now, the duo manages teams in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax, and works with some of Canada’s top private collectors and corporations, such as TELUS, Deloitte and Brookfield.
To grow the company from a small start-up to a pan-Canadian enterprise, Angelica and Megan relied on their unique talents, as well as their shared vision, rock-solid partnership, and exceptional team of staff. “We have an incredible pool of talent at K+D—arguably some of Canada’s best and brightest arts professionals,” says Angelica.
Strong relationships with auction houses, art dealers, curators, artists, conservators, and appraisers are also central to K+D’s success. “Learning how to establish meaningful relationships with people in my network started during my MA,” she explains. Not only did the program equip Angelica with a wealth of valuable knowledge and critical tools, but also it created avenues for connecting with artists, academics and other professionals working in the arts and adjacent fields. She remarks that “finding your footing in the cultural sector can require dogged determination, though more than anything I find that it calls for an adaptive skill set and rich relationships—both of which I cultivated during graduate school.”
U of T was the future entrepreneur’s launch pad. After graduation Angelica possessed meaningful connections and well-rounded skills, and depended on these and her existing business acumen as she moved into senior-level positions in communications, business development and corporate art. She played an integral role in founding the Art Canada Institute, where she helped to lead ground-breaking programs, including the Canadian Online Art Book Project and public lecture series. At the award-winning design firm PLANT Architect Inc., Angelica served as Communications Manager; she continues to draw inspiration from the firm’s approach to leadership: “I witnessed an innovative trio in action—three brilliant partners negotiating the business landscape and mentoring a dynamic team of professionals.”
Mentorship figures prominently in Angelica’s vision for K+D. Even with a full schedule—from leading her new company to participating on art panels, juries and committees—the ambitious U of T alumna is committed to helping others succeed within the arts: “We’re creating more jobs each year. As our business grows, we can become a real incubator for arts professionals to help bright talent get rooted across Canada.”
Meet Our Postdoctoral Fellows: Julia Lum
Friday, February 15, 2019
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I came to the University of Toronto after completing my PhD in art history at Yale University. Before that, I did a master’s degree in art history at Carleton University.
Many things attracted me to the University of Toronto: its faculty, its world-class library and museum collections and its opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement. I wanted to work with Mark Cheetham, whose scholarship on landscape, eco art and art theory advances urgent sets of issues that connect across periods and traditions.
My own research about the art of eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain, cross-cultural exchange and landscape art has shifted since I began postdoctoral research. My new project looks at the photographs and landscape views made by British and American surveyors who marked the 49th parallel North American border between Lake of the Woods and the Pacific Coast from 1857 to 1876.
The question of how Canada and the United States took shape, and what other kinds of knowledge and cultural practices were adopted or suppressed in the process of making the line, is something that I’m particularly poised to think about in Toronto. Not only are there photographs and papers at the Archives of Ontario, but the original reports, engravings and publications of the boundary survey are within easy reach at UofT’s magnificent Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and at Robarts Library. No less important is the strong contingent of Toronto-based Indigenous and Settler artists and scholars whose practices are reframing how we think of nations and sovereignties.
My approach to this research question is enriched by attending workshops at interdisciplinary centres such as the Jackman Humanities Institute, and by seeking expertise in fields as diverse as cultural geography, environmental studies, anthropology and Indigenous education. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with the art history and visual studies faculty, graduate students and with scholars across campus.
Ariella Minden at the KHI
Friday, February 15, 2019
In September 2018 it was announced that one of our graduate students, Ariella Minden, received a Max-Planck Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at the Kunsthistorisches Institut (KHI) in Florence. We asked Ariella to reflect on her time at the KHI under the supervision of Prof. Alessandro Nova and what the next 18 months have in store for her as she continues this amazing fellowship.
As a second year PhD student in the Graduate Department of Art at the University of Toronto my desk looks exactly like what one might expect of someone who has just started to undertake a book-length study also known as my doctoral dissertation. There are books piled high, well above my head, notes scattered about with ‘brilliant ideas’ that turn into passing thoughts, and a to-do list or three written on post-it notes stuck to the frame of my computer screen. The slight difference, however, is the location of my desk, which is not in Toronto, but instead at the Kunsthitorisches Institut in Florence where I am a pre-doctoral fellow.
The Kunsthistorisches Institut (KHI) is a Max Planck Society institute for art historical research, which also houses one of the largest art libraries in Europe. Having just celebrated its 150th birthday, the KHI remains a vibrant intellectual centre with hundreds of scholars making use of its resources, a regular program of lectures and seminars, and a team of pre- and post-doctoral fellows divided between two departments who carry out their own research while also taking part in larger working groups led by the directors of each department.
“What is your role in this ecosystem?” I hear you ask. I am a member of Prof. Alessandro Nova’s department where I am writing my dissertation on visual culture in Bologna during the first quarter of the sixteenth century. My project examines the ways in which artists and scholars worked in concert to generate knowledge, a conceit facilitated by the presence of the University, the oldest in Europe. During my two-year fellowship at the KHI, I am expected to give regular research-in-progress papers both at departmental meetings as well as for my pre-and post-doctoral colleagues. I presented the initial results of my research last October, speaking about three illustrated anatomical treatises published in 1521, 1522, and 1523. Focusing on the texts’ woodcuts, I discussed these books as sites of collaboration and experimentation to better understand print culture in Renaissance Bologna. Complimentary to my own research, I am part of the working group “Rinascimento Conteso”- “The Contested Renaissance.” Within this framework I take part in site visits, reading groups, and seminars where the goal is to reconsider and challenge traditional narratives of the Italian Renaissance by offering new critical methodologies or reintroducing previously neglected corpora.
I cannot overstate how fortunate I am to be part of such an intellectually vibrant community. At the KHI itself, I am surrounded by colleagues and mentors who continue to be lively interlocutors as my dissertation begins to take shape. The weekly academic programming has exposed me to a range of topics with which I had little prior familiarity. Furthermore, living in Florence has allowed for me to be immersed in the works of art that I study and am passionate about. I have had the opportunity not only to explore the artistic collections of the city itself, but to travel to other cities throughout Italy, an experience that has enriched my perspectives on certain object. This has opened up new avenues in my current project and continues to create fertile grounds for work in the future. With such a rich start to my fellowship, I look forward to what the next 18 months have in store!