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Ways of Seeing - Art History Conference

Another wet Saturday in November was made considerably sunnier by the annual conference for art historians – this year’s focus was on art in nature.

The conference covered man’s intervention and curation of the land and attempted power over it, in Baroque palaces and their gardens, in modern sculpture parks and marine scapes, as well as the universal power of nature through the word of Turner, Goldsworthy, and Long.

At a time of major climate trauma, the opening speaker set the tone by talking about how art has been historically revolutionary and needs to remain so more than ever. Sarah Philipps, chief examiner for the A level and celebrated art historian, opened with the examples of Eliasson’s Icebergs and Denes’ Wheatfield, both of which – although 30 years apart – demonstrate how art and the land are inextricably linked and how man needs to become a force for good rather than destruction.

A fantastic talk on the first markings of Neanderthal man in a South African cave admirably demonstrated our tenure on the planet as curators and gave us food for thought as we face an impending climate crisis, 73,000 years on.

These talks from curators, conservators, and auctioneers enabled the girls to think more broadly about the relevance of art and art history in terms of potential future careers. It was a varied, fact-filled, thought-provoking day, covering art from across the world and across history.

Here were some of the girls’ thoughts on the day…

“It was great to hear a variety of voices from across the industry.”

“I really enjoyed the Baroque gardens, especially as we have just finished looking at Baroque architecture in class. It is great to tie things together.”

“I loved the sculpture park works. It makes you think about how art and man relate to the world as a canvas.”

“We need to think about our footprint going forward. Art helps more than data in terms of engaging a wider audience. The art we looked at shows humanity’s tendency to vanity, but also tendency to hope.”