Project description

Art Historiographies in Central and Eastern Europe. An Inquiry from the Perspective of Entangled Histories. ERC Starting Grant, 2018-21

Project description

Art Historiographies in Central and Eastern Europe. An Inquiry from the Perspective of Entangled Histories (ArtHistCEE StG-802700, 2018-2021) is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and hosted by New Europe College – Institute for Advanced Study in Bucharest.

The project was established by Dr Ada Hajdu, who was its Grant Holder and Principal Investigator until she tragically passed away in July 2020. Following her loss, the project will be continued by her team until the summer of 2021. Its core members are Dr Shona Kallestrup (Project Supervisor), Dr Magda Kunińska (Senior Researcher), Dr Anna Adashinskaya (Postdoctoral Researcher), Dr Cosmin Minea (Postdoctoral Researcher) and Dr Mihnea Mihail (Research Assistant).

Our project proposes a fragmentary account of the art histories produced in Central and Eastern Europe in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, from an entangled histories perspective. We explore the relationships between the art histories produced in the region and the art histories produced in Western Europe. But more importantly, we investigate how the art histories written in present-day Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia resonate with each other, either proposing conflicting interpretations of the past, or ignoring uncomfortable competing discourses. Central and Eastern European art historians did not simply replicate various theories, nor did they work independently of larger developments in the discipline. Therefore, weconstantly relate their writings to the writings of other historians, from a non-hierarchical perspective.

We focus on the period 1850-1950 because we are interested in how art history contributed to nation building processes. Researching the conceptualisation of a theoretical framework thataccommodates the artistic production of the past shows the difficulties of dealing with a complex reality without essentializing it along the lines of various political ideologies. We focus on two main issues. Firstly, how did Central and Eastern European art historians adopt, adapt and respond to theories and methodologies developed elsewhere? Secondly, what periodisations of art were produced in Central and Eastern Europe, what strategies were developed to conceptualise local styles, and how was the concept of influence used to establish hierarchical relationships?

Analysing the complex relationships between these art histories enables us to question received knowledge about the region. But more importantly, it contributes to a better understanding of the foundations and developments of art history as a discipline, and its transformations in a globalised world.


New Europe College (NEC) is an independent Romanian institute for advanced study in the humanities and social sciences founded in 1994 by Professor Andrei Pleșu (philosopher, art historian, writer, Romanian Minister of Culture, 1990–1991, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1997-1999) within the framework of the New Europe Foundation, established in 1994 as a private foundation subject to Romanian law. Its impetus was the New Europe Prize for Higher Education and Research, awarded in 1993 to Professor Pleșu by a group of six institutes for advanced study (the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences, Wassenaar, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin). 
Since 1994, the NEC community of fellows and alumni has enlarged to over 500 members. In 1998 New Europe College was awarded the prestigious Hannah Arendt Prize for its achievements in setting new standards in research and higher education. New Europe College is officially recognized by the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research as an institutional structure for postgraduate studies in the humanities and social sciences, at the level of advanced studies.

Focused primarily on individual research at an advanced level, NEC offers to young Romanian scholars and academics in the fields of humanities and social sciences, and to the foreign scholars invited as fellows appropriate working conditions, and provides an institutional framework with strong international links, acting as a stimulating environment for interdisciplinary dialogue and critical debates. The academic programs NEC coordinates, and the events it organizes aim at strengthening research in the humanities and social sciences and at promoting contacts between Romanian scholars and their peers worldwide.

New Europe College has been hosting over the years an ongoing series of lectures given by prominent foreign and Romanian scholars, for the benefit of academics, researchers and students, as well as a wider public. The College also organizes international and national events (seminars, workshops, colloquia, symposia, book launches, etc.). An important component of NEC is its library, consisting of reference works, books and periodicals in the humanities, social and economic sciences. The library holds, in addition, several thousands of books and documents resulting from private donations. It is first and foremost destined to service the fellows, but it is also open to students, academics and researchers from Bucharest and from outside it.