Department of Art and Art History Art History

A Reimagined Blanton Museum Enriched by Objects from The Art and Art History Collection

Thu. March 30, 2017

woven wide-rimmed hat from mesoamerica
Woven wide-rimmed hat (monster) [Art and Art History Collection], Pisac, Cusco, Peru, Andean; 1958, wool over straw frame, 14 in. diameter (Photo by Mark Menjivar)

The Blanton Museum of Art re-opened its doors on Feb 12, 2017 to a completely reimagined presentation of its galleries and permanent collection. In its new incarnation, the ancient American and Latin American galleries have been enriched by the addition of The Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) on loan from the Department of Art and Art History. Consisting of ancient artifacts, ethnographic materials and historical objects primarily from the Americas, the breadth and depth of the collection spans approximately 5,000 invaluable objects for research and studious exploration.

“Many people in Austin know that the Blanton was a pioneer in the field of Latin American art, but for the last decade, visitors have only had a glimpse of that interest, through temporary exhibitions and programs,” says Curator of Latin American Art Beverly Adams to the Austin American-Statesman. “The new installation of the permanent collection will be the first time in our current building that major movements and ideas in Latin American art have been represented.”

The Art and Art History Collection ranges from early Pre-Columbian ceramics to twentieth-century hand-crafted textiles, from small lithic bifacial points (ex. hand axes, spear points) to life-size wooden sculptures. Supplemented by cultural holdings from the Texas Memorial Museum and objects from Duncan and Elizabeth Boeckman of Dallas, Texas, the most substantial holdings of the collection pertain to the Pre-Columbian cultures across the Americas.

The process of integrating the long-term loan of the AAHC into the new Blanton galleries offered yet another opportunity for the department and the museum to intersect through the work of the Mesoamerica Center and art history undergraduate and graduate student assistants. “As someone interested in museum work and ancient American art, it was an amazing opportunity to assist with the installation,” writes art history master’s degree candidate Kendyll Gross. “I came to The University of Texas at Austin as Art History Lecturer and Assistant Director of the Mesoamerica Center Dr. Astrid Runggaldier and the Blanton were creating a plan of action, so I have been active with the project from the very start.”

“The first thing that awed me about the collection was its diversity and sheer size. There are over a thousand objects hailing from different regions and time periods of Latin America,” writes Gross. “I loved scanning through everything we could choose from. I would research items from the collection and compare them to similar objects in museums across the country. I would flip through the Metropolitan or LACMA’s online databases and think ‘Wow, we have something just like that here at UT!’

A vital resource for the student and scholarly community as well as the greater community of Austin, a selection of The Art and Art History Collection objects and textiles can be viewed in the new Blanton gallery devoted to the art of the Ancient Americas, and in the gallery of Native American art.

UT Antiquities Action Symposium: Landscapes of Identity: Global and Local Models for Heritage Preservation program

Sun. March 19, 2017

artifact starkly lit with dramatic shadow, text in pinkish red
Image credit: D C Trein

Landscapes of Identity: Global and Local Models for Heritage Preservation

Program Presentation Abstracts

9:00 a.m.
Coffee and opening remarks

9:30 a.m.
Dr. Alex Walthall (University of Texas at Austin) and Dr. Jared Benton (Old Dominion University)

Looting, Looters, and Stakeholders in Aidone, Sicily: the Economic and Cultural Valuation of Repatriated Art in Rural Communities
During the 1990s and early 2000s a belief pervaded among archaeologists that, if cultural property remained in—or was returned to—its location of origin, it would stimulate the local economy, increase local stakeholding in cultural heritage, and curb looting. The central Sicilian town of Aidone, as a site of both repatriated works of ancient art and ongoing looting, offers an unique opportunity to study the intersections of repatriation, symbolic capital, stakeholding, and economic benefit in a community outside of the major tourist networks. From 2007 to 2011, several high-profile artifacts were returned to the city of Aidone from the United States. As it became clear the works of art would return, the residents of Aidone enthusiastically embraced both the restitution of their own cultural property and the possibility of a reinvigorated local economy. Now, a decade after the first repatriation, it is time to reflect on the initial promises of restitution.

10:00 a.m.
Dr. May al-Ibrashy (American University in Cairo, founder of Megawra)

Heritage Conservation as a driver for development: Athar Lina Initiative in Historic Cairo
Athar Lina is a participatory conservation initiative to establish modalities of citizen participation in heritage conservation based on a vision of the monument as a resource not a burden. It is based in al-Khalifa in Historic Cairo and run by the Built Environment Collective|Megawra. Athar Lina believes that conservation can be a vehicle for development if practiced in a participatory inclusive manner. Athar Lina’s activities in Khalifa are based on the five lines of action proposed in the first participatory workshop; 1) Conservation and rehabilitation of heritage sites as nodes of cultural and socio-economic development; 2) Heritage Education; 3) Development of craft and design through knowledge exchange and capacity building; 4) Tourist promotion; 5) Improvement of quality of public space through projects to improve infrastructure, upgrade public space and provide spaces for sports and recreation.

10:30 a.m.

11:00 a.m.
Dr. Astrid Runggaldier (University of Texas at Austin)

Where do ‘Orphans’ Belong? Local Engagement with Global Concerns Through the Art and Art History Collection at the University of Texas at Austin
In the context of museum collections, “orphaned antiquities” are objects with unclear or undocumented provenance, or collecting history. For archaeologists, the term “orphan” additionally refers to objects that lack information about their original context of recovery. Orphan collections tend to form when objects are donated by private collectors, as in the case of the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) at UT Austin, which includes a number of indigenous American artworks that present complex ethical concerns for art historians, archaeologists, and museum specialists. However, as this presentation discusses, these concerns also present excellent opportunities to teach locally about global issues of cultural heritage protection.

11:30 a.m.
Dr. Robert B. Pickering (University of Tulsa)

Antiquities, Museums & Research: A West Mexico Example
Museum-based research of archaeological collections has an important role to play in preserving the past. The benefits and liabilities of using museum collections will be presented using examples from West Mexico.

12:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m.
Dr. Eric Tang (University of Texas at Austin)

Those Who Stayed: The Impact of Gentrification on Longstanding Residents of Austin's Eastside
A handful of longtime African American residents of East Austin remain in what is arguably the most heavily gentrified neighborhood in the city. They steadfastly refuse to relinquish their property, presence and place in the community. How do these remaining residents understand the profound changes brought on by gentrification and the displacement of their neighbors? Have they reaped any of the benefits of new housing development and the influx of new businesses and resources as some defenders of gentrification claim? Or are they only embattled, forced to defend what remains of their historic and beloved community?

1:30 p.m.
Dr. Stephennie Mulder (University of Texas at Austin)

Local or Universal: Imagining Antiquity and its Localities in Islamic Societies
Long before the emergence of ISIS and other so-called Islamist iconoclasts, and perhaps as early as the rise of Islam itself, Muslims imagined Islamic and pre-Islamic antiquity and its localities in myriad ways: as sites of memory, spaces of healing, or places imbued with didactic, historical, and moral power. Ancient statuary were deployed as talismans, paintings were interpreted to foretell and reify the coming of Islam, and temples of ancient gods and churches devoted to holy saints were converted into mosques in ways that preserved their original meaning and, sometimes, even their architectural ornament and fabric. Often, such localities were valued simply as places that elicited a sense of awe and wonder, or of reflection on the present relevance of history and the greatness of past empires, a theme so prevalent it created distinct genres of Arabic and Persian literature (aja’ib, fada’il). Sites like Ctesiphon, the ancient capital of the Zoroastrian Sasanians, or the Temple Mount, where the Jewish temple had stood, were embraced by early companions of the Prophet Muhammad and incorporated into Islamic notions of the self. Furthermore, various Islamic interpretive communities as well as Jews and Christians often shared holy places and had similar haptic, sensorial, and ritual connections that enabled them to imagine place in similar ways. However, although traditional locally-grounded relationships to sites of heritage were precisely the means of their preservation into modern times, the interjection of colonial rule imposed a new paradigm of “universal” heritage that denied and erased established local practices of heritage preservation. This paper will challenge current “universal” archaeological and heritage models now prevalent by exploring several examples of local preservation of heritage sites, and in doing so, will reveal the numerous ways Muslims, Christians, and Jews preserved and revered the past throughout Islamic history.

2:00 p.m.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Erin Thompson (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)

Using (and Losing) Our Heads: Case Studies of Conflicts between Global and Local Heritage
What should happen when local and global audiences want to use cultural heritage in conflicting ways? Whose use should get priority? Who should be able to block another group's use? Thompson will examine these questions by presenting three case studies of artworks based on heads: the mummified head of a Maori warrior; Athena emerging from the head of Zeus on the east pediment of the Parthenon; and the head of Sarawati, Hindu goddess of wisdom, stolen from a shrine in rural Nepal.

Bio: As America’s only full-time professor of art crime, Erin studies the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through looting, theft, and the deliberate destruction of art. She has discussed art crime topics in, e.g., The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and the Freakonomics podcast, and has been invited to lecture at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia. Her book, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors, is now out from Yale University Press. Currently, Erin is researching the ways in which terrorist groups both sell and destroy art to support their genocidal campaigns, as well as the legalities and ethics of digital reproductions of cultural heritage.

This conference is sponsored by Antiquities Action, Department of Classics, Department of Art and Art History and Middle Eastern Studies.

Professor John Clarke and Oplontis Project Win Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship

Mon. March 27, 2017

AAH logo with Texas in orange above text reading Art and Art History

The Loeb Classical Library Foundation at Harvard University has awarded a Loeb Classical Library Fellowship to Art History Professor John Clarke and the Oplontis Project. The Loeb Classical Library Foundation awards fellowships to qualified scholars to support research, publication and other projects in the area of classical studies. With the fellowship in 2017-2018, Oplontis Project will continue their work at the site of Oplontis in Torre Annunziata, Italy.


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