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Staging Spectacles of Nation: Art and Identities of Patrimony in Early 20th-century Europe

10 maggio 2018
Ex Boccherini - Piazza S. Ponziano 6 (Conference Room )
This talk will explore key narratives of cultural heritage in creating new national and transnational identities in the period from the late 1890s to the 1930. Discussion will focus in particular on the neglected importance of Germanic medieval and Renaissance cultural inheritance, looking at significant ways in which its revivals, displays and recreations were to shape amplified constructs of both 'national' patrimony and staging modern art. Our focus will be three case-studies pivotal to understanding how such period displays of heritage also project developed showcases for 'modernity': the 1899 Dresden Lucas Cranach exhibition; the Louvre 'Exposition des primitifs Francais' and exhibitions of Sienese 'primitifs' at the Burlington Fine Art Club, London: both of 1904. Discussion will investigate the significance and claims of each to present new types of heritage exhibitions. While on one hand these aim to 'rediscover' an authentic, purer pre- and early modern so-called 'primitive' artistic past. On the other, such claims for 'authenticity' are underpinned by more complex modern museal innovations, that is: to stage a highly selective collecting and imagery of heritage, mixing the Germanic and Mediterranean, mediatized via the tools of early 20th-century popular media, to promote and re-create these pasts and their panoramic possibilities as cultural and political drivers for the present. The conclusions will consider the extent to which stagings of Germanic medieval and early Renaissance patrimony would give heightened prominence to so-called 'primitive' medieval artistic heritage in developing spectacles of national ambition. Yet in turn, this would also become appropriated as a key vector of early 20th-century 'trans-national' cultural identity-construction which crosses boundaries of private to museum display, implicated in reframing the most potent narratives of modern art. This seminar will continue in an afternoon session, in the same location, from 5-7 pm.
Simpson, Juliet