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Twenty recipients of CAA International Travel Grants, funded by the Getty Foundation, attended the Annual Conference in New York in February. For the second year, CAA’s International Committee, chaired by Ann Albritton, worked with Janet Landay, organizer of this project for CAA, to host a diverse group of art historians—scholars, teachers, and curators from nineteen countries around the world—in CAA’s endeavor to become more connected in our increasingly global art world.

CAA Executive Director, Linda Downs, explains the project in this way:

We developed the concept for a program that would:

  1. introduce individuals who have not had the means to participate in the annual conference to provide travel, hotel and stipends to attend;
  2. attempt to interest individuals who are teaching in relatively small or new art and art history departments to provide access to an international network of people in the visual arts;
  3. to do a good job of hosting them and connecting them to other members of similar sub disciplines and interests (be they US or international members) in order to provide the beginnings of networks that they can build on;
  4. to give them instruction on what is sought by the Annual Conference Committee for vetted session proposals so that they might propose sessions in the future in order to present their perspectives, critical concerns and resent research; and
  5. to start a dialogue with US art historians and artists on their methodology, research, networks and interests.

Each grantee was hosted by a colleague from CAA—members of the International Committee, Board members, or representatives of the National Committee on the History of Art (NCHA)—who introduced them to the conference and scholars in their fields, and also arranged meetings, museum visits and informal gatherings. This year, we were very grateful for a grant from NCHA to support the hosts’ activities.

On February 12, the day before the Annual Conference began, the grant recipients and their hosts met for a half-day preconference about issues in global art history. Beginning with short presentations by the grantees about their research and experiences, the afternoon included a panel discussion on global art history, moderated by Marc Gotlieb, the president of NCHA and professor of art history at Williams College, with representatives from the Getty Foundation (Joan Weinstein), the Getty Research Institute (Gail Feigenbaum), the Clark Research and Academic Program (Michael Ann Holly), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (Elizabeth Cropper). Exciting exchanges prompted by the panel discussion as well as the research projects of the grant recipients produced energy that enlivened our discussions for the remainder of the conference. Here’s how one grantee summarized it:

The pre-conference was probably the most useful aspect of this visit as it allowed each of us to get to know each other and to immediately identify people with whom we could network and set up reciprocal projects or research exchanges between our institutions. I have made some wonderful contacts and we are already busy with plans for invitations to speak at conferences and plans to arrange student/staff visits to linked institutions.
—Karen von Veh, South Africa

On Thursday, during a luncheon for the grantees and hosts, James Elkins, E.C. Chadbourne Chair of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, had lunch with the group and shared with them ideas and stories from his international study of the field. This, again, was a highlight for many. In fact, Elkins plans to visit some of them in the near future as he travels around the world.

A whole new range and scope of possibilities have entered my horizon. I think it will open up many opportunities for my students and colleagues as well. But on a personal and human level the conference was a great gathering for creating global understanding.
—Musarrat Hasan, Pakistan

Jean Borgatti, specialist in African Art, commented on her hosting activities for several of the grant recipients from African countries: Joseph Adande from Benin; Peju Layiwola of Lagos, Nigeria; Venny Nakazibwe of Uganda; Ohioma Pogoson of Nigeria, and Karen von Veh of South Africa (and also, at times, Marly Desir of Haiti). A week after the CAA conference, Jean flew to Africa for several months of study and wrote this:

I’m looking forward to actually visiting three of my five grantees in Lagos, Ibadan, and what I refer to as ‘the other’ Benin, since I am currently in Benin City, heart of the old kingdom. During CAA, we had three great outings together: on Monday, Yaelle Biro at the Metropolitan Museum graciously provided a tour of her exhibit on the reception of African art in New York in the 1930s, and then left us with the Met’s archivist who gave us an overview of the various media encompassed by the archive. On Wednesday, we were invited to a private reception for El Anatsui’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and were stunned by the beauty of the objects and thrilled to meet with the artist himself. On Thursday, Susan Vogel, founding director of the Center for African Art, invited the group to her Soho loft for dinner, a nice way to unwind and extend our conversations about ongoing and upcoming projects. A good time was had by all.

In addition to the events Borgatti described, these recipients also attended several CAA sessions, exchanged ideas with other recipients, and met many other CAA members.

The International Committee is delighted with CAA’s travel grant program, not only for bringing international scholars to the Annual Conference, but for the opportunity for us to interact with them: to learn about each other’s research and discuss mutual interests and concerns. We are indeed grateful to the Getty Foundation and NCHA for making this program possible and hope the friends we made this year will come to future conferences to continue our conversations. As one of the grantees put it:

I will be an ambassador for the CAA henceforth and will advise art historians in my country and elsewhere to endeavor to attend their annual meetings.
—Ohioma Pogoson, Nigeria

First image: Parul Mukherji (India) and Ding Ning (China), two of this year’s recipients of CAA’s International Travel Grants.

Second image: Gail Feigenbaum, Elizabeth Cropper, Marc Gotlieb, Michael Ann Holly, and Joan Weinstein participated in a panel discussion on issues in global art history during the February 12 pre-conference for the International Travel Grant program.

Third image: James Elkins, professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, met with the CAA International Travel Grant recipients during the conference. Pictured are Peju Layiwola, Ann Albritton, James Elkins, and Elaine O’Brien.

Fourth image: Jean Borgatti took five recipients of this year’s CAA International Travel Grant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they received a tour from curator Yaelle Biro. Front row: Jean Borgatti, Venny Nakazibwe (Uganda) Back row: Ohioma Pogoson (Nigeria), Karen von Veh (South Africa), Yaelle Biro, Joseph Adande (Benin), Peju Layiwola (Nigeria).

Ann Albritton is a professor of modern and contemporary art history at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and chair of CAA’s International Committee.

Judy Peter, a scholar at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, speaks at a meeting of CAA International Travel Grant recipients at the 2012 Annual Conference in Los Angeles (photograph by Bradley Marks)

A short time before the 2012 CAA Annual Conference in Los Angeles, Judy Peter and I began sending occasional emails back and forth from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Sarasota, Florida. As incoming chair of the International Committee, I had been assigned to Peter, one of twenty recipients of the CAA International Travel Grant Program, generously funded by the Getty Foundation. We had been paired based on a shared academic pursuit: teaching contemporary issues in art. Her short biography describing her as head of the Department of Jewellery Design and Manufacture at the University of Johannesburg gave me a brief introduction that made me curious to meet her. We met face-to-face early on the first morning of the conference and went with several other grant recipients and their hosts to a large roundtable breakfast at the Hotel Figueroa. It was there that I began getting to know her as a fellow art historian and theorist who was delighted to be at the conference and determined to make the most of the experience.

Peter is a dedicated scholar who has the distinction of being the first black person in South Africa to complete a PhD in visual studies: she earned her degree in 2011 at the University of Pretoria. Even though her country has been a democracy for eighteen years, many blacks and women in academia must still confront, and break through, the proverbial glass ceiling. Peter describes her research as a “critical reading of the politics of gender and identity issues in a new South Africa.” She is currently studying the work of thirteen female South African artists, looking at myriad geographical and historical influences that have affected their art practice. Each artist she has chosen to write on is working with identity, place, and displacement.

Between visits to the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Peter attended sessions she felt were useful to her, including the CAA International Committee panel, “Internationalizing the Field: A Discussion of Global Networks for Art Historians,” and others, such as “Black Venus: They Called Her Hottentot.” These sessions, she writes, “allowed me to compare teaching and learning practices between institutions in the United States and in South Africa.” In addition, Peter attended two of CAA’s Professional Development Workshops: “Advice for New Instructors” and “The Syllabus: Mapping Out Your Semester.” At the latter she made a connection with a workshop presenter, Steven Bleicher, a professor of visual arts at Coastal University in South Carolina. Since the conference, the two have been in communication regarding opportunities for scholars at the University of Johannesburg to contribute to Bleicher’s new book.

For the international scholars, networking within their diverse group was among the most important benefits of being a travel-grant recipient. Discovering common areas of research, exploring conflicting views, and sharing divergent teaching practices made for dynamic discussions and brought various groupings of scholars together. Isolation remains a common problem for many of the grantees, and the conference provided immediate and long-range opportunities for them to build new communities. In fact, many of them have continued these conversations online; several are making concrete plans for future collaborations.

Like even the most seasoned of CAA conference goers, Peter and the other international scholars attended a whirlwind of workshops, sessions, panels, meetings, and museums without much time for reflection. Directly following the event in Los Angeles, however, most travel-grant recipients flew across the country to spend a few days at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. At the Clark they were able to relax and get to know each other in a less formal environment, and to start to lay the groundwork for future work together.

I look forward to keeping in touch with Judy Peter in order to keep learning about the vastly different social and political landscape that artists and art historians inhabit in South Africa. I’m especially interested in her research on female artists active from 1994 to 2004. We’ll continue to exchange ideas, share our writing with one another, and possibly collaborate on a project.

Read about another travel-grant recipient, Dóra Sallay from Hungary, and review a report on all activities from the 2012 CAA International Travel Grant Program.

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