The world's largest art history congress is being held in Florence this year

From September 1-6, 2019, Florence will host the 35th CIHA Congress, the world's largest art history congress.

The CIHA (Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art) Congress is the world’s leading congress dedicated to art history: now in its thirty-fifth edition, it is returning to Italy after forty years, and the venue for the 2019 edition will be Florence, September 1-6. The last edition held in our country was in Bologna in 1979. This year the congress is divided for the first time in its history into two parts: the first Motion: Transformation is to be held in Florence, while the second part, Motion: Migrations, will be held in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2020. Motion is the theme of this edition of the congress: the aim is to give rise to a trans-cultural debate on the theme of movement, which has always been one of the most important topics in global culture. The theme of movement will therefore be declined, between Florence and São Paulo, in its two main meanings: transformation and migration. Speakers will include scholars from the world’s leading universities and institutions, including the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris), the Courtauld Institute (London), the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Columbia University (New York), Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa), and the University of Hong Kong.

Organized by CIHA Italy in collaboration with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut, the congress will take place at Villa Vittoria and other important palaces in the city (including Palazzo Vecchio and will welcome five hundred speakers from around the world. The event is made possible thanks to a contribution from the Fondazione CR Firenze and with the support of the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, and has obtained the patronage of: MiBAC (Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities), City of Florence, Metropolitan City, University of Florence, Florence Chamber of Commerce, and Tuscany Region.

“We chose Florence as the venue for the 35th CIHA Congress,” explains Marzia Faietti, CIHA Italy President, “because at the beginning of the third millennium the city represents an emblematic case for reflecting on the concepts (and goals) of Internationalism, Transnationalism and Globalism. In fact, today’s Florence (at the center of multi-ethnic tourism, but also home to prestigious cultural institutions from different parts of the world) goes far beyond the international dimension that had characterized it in two ”strong“ moments of its history, namely in the fifteenth century and between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also goes well beyond that momentary tension toward an ante litteram globalism due to Ferdinand I Medici’s aspirations toward extra-European routes and beyond the Mediterranean. Today Florence is the epicenter of a globalism that is already rooted and, at the same time, aimed at seeking to overcome it in new directions.” The congress will then be “an opportunity for a comparison of the highest scientific profile,” adds Massimiliano Rossi, CIHA Italy vice president, “in which different traditions of studies, proper to the different countries involved, will be measured on the common ground of broad historical-artistic themes, articulated over large chronological spans and encompassing the widest geographical horizons.”

“Reflecting on the future of art history in a city like Florence,” observes Gerhard Wolf, director of the Max-Planck Institute for Art History in Florence (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - MPI), “in a debate among scholars who come from all over the world, is a unique opportunity, if we only think of Florence’s role from the 14th century onward in transcultural exchanges in the Mediterranean and beyond, with the intertwining of art, science and commerce. Organizing an event such as the 35th CIHA conference in one of the most important cities in world tourism invites reflection on the sustainable care of monumental and artistic heritage, the future of museums on a global horizon, restoration between historical research and technology, and the role of art and images between mediality and materiality in the past and present. Topics that are of utmost importance for a discipline that has many responsibilities in today’s society and in the dialogue between cultures.”

There will be nine sessions into which the Florentine congress will be divided. The first session, Art as Vision, focuses on the relations between art and divine inspiration, from a comparative and cross-cultural perspective (examining some figures of artists and mystics capable of creating mental images that dialogue with real ones, the relations between observable reality, spirituality, vision and creativity will be investigated and the complex links between seeing with the eyes, imagining and remembering will be highlighted). The second, Art and Matter over Time, insists on the importance of matter in art, not only in relation to the artist’s choice of material when creating a work, but also with respect to the ways in which materials change over time, putting art objects, which are not made of inert but living matter, at risk of perishability. The third session, Art and Nature, addresses the theme of the multifaceted relationships between art and nature, concepts that have been referred to separately only since the early modern age (in more distant times, in fact, there was no clear separation between the two, both, Nature and Art, being the result of a design of divine origin, and in the course of the talks the crucial moments of this process of distinction will be brought into focus). The fourth session, Art and Religions, will introduce, from an art-historical and anthropological perspective, the power of images in religions of different cultures. The fifth, Art between Drawing and Writing, will offer a reflection on affinities and divergences between drawing and writing.

Again, session number six, Iconicity and the Process of Production in Architecture, starts from the assumption that there is a growing tendency in contemporary culture to turn even the great masterpieces of architecture into pure images, into icons, and for which this visibility, never so great, is also producing substantial changes in the way we look at architecture as a physical, multi-dimensional experience, will propose taking an approach to the architectural icon that is oriented toward the study of creative and production processes. The seventh session, Art, Power and the Public, moves from the assumption that the work of artists and architects has always been used by individuals or groups belonging to a wide variety of political and religious contexts to acquire and maintain power, and focuses on certain moments of crisis and change in which works of art have helped to transform obsolete systems, traditional patterns and power relations between different social groups, confronting society with new ideas or even utopias. The eighth session, Art, Critics and Viewers, aims to examine the role of artists, critics and viewers from the postwar period to the present, looking at the topic from the perspective of “disappearance” (of limits, content, memory) and discussing death, censorship and new technologies. Finally, the ninth and final session, Voyage, conceived as a connecting section between the two parts of the congress to be held in Florence and São Paulo, Brazil, aims to invite scholars to exchange ideas on the theme of “Voyage.” Artistic and cultural exchanges between Brazil and Italy will be addressed, but not only: travel, in fact, can be declined according to different perspectives, from the migration of people to the circulation of objects and documents. And again: the journey of the artist, the man of culture, the scientific explorer, the pilgrim, as well as journeys determined by colonial, military and diplomatic intentions, or linked to pirate raids and banditry phenomena.

“In view of the World Congress of Art History,” says Francesco Scoppola, MiBAC Director General for Education and Research, “the hope at this time is for an increasing equal interaction between the different professions involved in cultural heritage and a growing focus on large-scale, contextual, but parallel detail-based safeguarding that brings new generations closer to the work in a simple and welcoming way: as site managers, as safeguarders, as workers for ongoing care and maintenance. Smiling, freer and more spontaneous work, as sites of the past were. Putting skills growth before certifications.”

“It is with pleasure that we host in Florence the 35th World Congress of Art History, a prestigious event that will bring together scholars, museum directors and cultural institutes,” says Tommaso Sacchi, Councillor for Culture of the City of Florence. “An essential moment of confrontation to outline problems, opportunities and future paths in this very important sector, one of the most important engines of Italy and its economy. Never as in this moment have cultural heritage and art in general seemed to have returned predominant in the political debate. And it is a good thing: the study of art, its preservation, its valorization, the best tools to make it enjoyed by the widest possible public are not subjects for insiders but pillars of human history and also of humanity. The hope, therefore, is that also thanks to appointments of this kind, in one of the cradle cities of art in the world, these issues can remain high on the political agenda and can contribute to the strengthening of our country’s cultural identity.”

“We wanted to host this appointment at Villa Vittoria,” says Leonardo Bassilichi, president of Firenze Fiera, “because it is an important moment of confrontation on issues that are rooted and felt in Florence. And because its contents help direct the initiatives we are developing, as Firenze Fiera, together with our public institutions. Events, and new formats, dedicated to art and its relations with the public and the city.”

“Fondazione CR Firenze,” says its president Umberto Tombari, “has wholeheartedly supported this important event not only because of its high scientific level but also because art is one of the sectors to which our institution has dedicated, since its establishment, a very special attention. The substantial resources that are devoted to this area are also motivated by the multiple reflections that art has in human history and society and that are well explored by the themes of the congress.”

The scientific committee of the congress consists of Claudia Cieri Via, formerly University of Rome La Sapienza; Marco Collareta, University of Pisa; Claudia Conforti, formerly University of Rome Tor Vergata; Marzia Faietti, Uffizi Galleries/Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut; Giuliana Ericani, former Museo Civico di Bassano; Maria Grazia Messina, former University of Florence; Antonio Pinelli, former University of Florence; Massimiliano Rossi, University of Salento; Gerhard Wolf, Director Kunsthistoriches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut. For all information (including the program with individual speakers) and to book, one must go to the CIHA Italy website. The congress ticket costs 250 euros if purchased before the event (purchased on site, it costs 300 euros). Reductions: 150 euros for CIHA members, 80 euros for students.

Pictured: Florence, Villa Vittoria, congress headquarters.

The world's largest art history congress is being held in Florence this year
The world's largest art history congress is being held in Florence this year

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.