‘Nothing New‘: once again about the impossibility of a global history of art

(comments on Dana Arnold's ‘A Short Book About Art’)





Key words: global history, globalization, glocalization, art history, phenomenology, morphology of art, ideology, aesthetics, art, work of art.


I started this text as a review of another short history of art’ that I came across. A Short Book About Art’, written by the British art historian Dana Arnold, is a great example of the popularization and practical application of new approaches to art history. Among them are sociology, psychology of art, political iconology, gender art history and more. The researcher set an ambitious goal. The work is dedicated to finding common threads that connect the art of different geographical areas and demonstrate that the art of any period works in a similar way. We are talking, as we see, about the global history of the arts. This story should cover all regions and give a balanced representation of the cultures/arts of the different regions. However, the noble goal, as a careful reading of the work showed, not only did not solve the problem but also exacerbated it. Non-European art is almost ignored. In addition, the researcher builds a typical pro-Western narrative, where, however, the progressive approach is replaced by values. If progressivism was the dark side of modernity’, the value approach’ involves the consideration of non-European art exclusively from the perspective of Occidental values. Non-European art enters the narrative of global art history through hybridization due to glocalization. At the same time, the glocalization of art occurs in two ways. The first of them is passive. The projective vision of the researcher formed by Western values ​​simply does not notice and does not anticipate any difference between the other’. Because of this, neither the other nor its differences fall into the field of study. The second way of glocalization is active. It involves the relocation and recontextualization of culture. It is about moving culture in a familiar, acceptable to the researcher context (most often it is the morphology of art, topic or phenomenology). Both options for glocalization involve the implementation of an exclusion strategy, which makes it impossible to talk about global art history. Global art history is possible only as a result of non-trivial decolonial optics. However, decolonization as a postmodern project contradicts the modern idea of ​short history’ and centrifugal narrative.



How to Cite

Levchenko І. (2022). ‘Nothing New‘: once again about the impossibility of a global history of art : (comments on Dana Arnold’s ‘A Short Book About Art’). TEXT AND IMAGE: ESSENTIAL PROBLEMS IN ART HISTORY, 1(13), 163–172. https://doi.org/10.17721/2519-4801.2022.1.13



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