Canon(s) in dispute: The narratives of modernity and their conflicts


Seminar: Canon(s) in dispute: The narratives of modernity and their conflicts

Aula Magna, Faculty of Geography and History, Universitat de Barcelona, Wednesday 23 November 2016, 09.45-19.00


Since the eighties the critique of the Western modern canon has been recurrent in the historiography of art history, allowing the transition from a universalist and essentialist vision, to a plural one, composed by multiple canons produced in different times and geographies, with different agencies. However, and despite this transformation, the logic that determines the modern canon continues to exercise a major influence on the history of contemporary art. In fact, the guiding lines of academic studies in this discipline are largely based on the assessment of great artists associated with the Western canonical framework.

This seminar seeks to deepen the specific processes through which the modern canon is created, delving also into conflictive models that attempted to challenge its legitimacy. Given that a canonical configuration can be traced back to a corpus of texts, exhibitions and events, agents and platforms, the debate will be raised through a series of case studies that tackle the issues we want to discuss. Putting the canonical configurations into discussion involves raising the negotiations and conflicts, as well as reconsidering supposedly stable categories as the modern, the contemporary and the global. In addition, it proposes to broaden the discussion to contexts, since the construction of the canon occurs in a complex social and institutional matrix, which prioritizes and organizes according criteria of value.

Through the contrasted study of cases derived from the colonial relations of Spain, Europe, USA, Latin America and Asia that have predisposed the transition from the Cold War to the global world, we will seek to create a common framework of reflection that could serve as a basis to extrapolate mechanisms of production of meanings, construction of narratives and parameters, in order to reflect collectively on the processes of construction and deconstruction of the canon, and, at the same time, to propose a debate on the visibilization of alternative models in conjunction with the socio-political movements that marked the Cold War.

Poster Multimedia


9.45-10.00 > Welcome and presentation of the Seminar by Paula Barreiro López (Universitat de Barcelona)

Communications (chair: Olga Fernández López, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
10.00-11.00 > Miriam Basilio (New York University), Taxonomías en evolución: el  Museum of Modern Art en los años treinta y cuarenta y las definiciones de la “colección latinoamericana”.
11.00-12.00 > Clare Carolin (University of Oxford), Women, War and the Transformation of Britain: Linda Kitson and the Falklands Conflict.
12.00-12.30 > Coffee break
12.30-13.30 > Laura Mercader (Universitat de Barcelona), El canon es política sexual. Diferenciando la diferencia para escribir sobre arte.
13.30-14.15 > Conversation between Laia Manonelles (Universitat de Barcelona) and Anna María Guasch (Universitat de Barcelona), Globalization and the new canons.

14.15-16.00 > Lunch break

Communications – Spain and the canon (chair: Paula Barreiro López, UB)
16.00-17.00 > Julián Díaz Sánchez (Universidad de Castilla la Mancha), Resistencia de la pintura, años 70.
17.00-18.00 > Juan Albarrán (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Un lugar para los nuevos comportamientos.
18.00-19.00 >
Debate and closing remarks.


Clare Carolin
Women, War and the Transformation of Britain: Linda Kitson and the Falklands Conflict

Laura Mercader
El canon es política sexual. Diferenciando la diferencia para escribir sobre arte

Julián Díaz Sánchez
Resistencia de la pintura. Años 70

Juan Albarrán
Un lugar para los nuevos comportamientos

Direction: Paula Barreiro López (Universitat de Barcelona)

Organization: Olga Fernández López (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Laia Manonelles (Universitat de Barcelona)

Coordination: Juliane Debeusscher (Universitat de Barcelona).

This seminar is supported by the Department of Art History of the University of Barcelona.

*Image: John Latham, Art and Culture, 1966-1969 (MoMA New York Collection).