Jas’ Elsner Launch Lecture Series

Through February 26, 2017

Feb. 25

Speaker: Chen Ping

The Vienna School of Art History: A Cultural Legend at the Fin de siècle
2017.2.25 2:00-5:00pm

The Concept of Kunstwollen: Aloïs Riegl and the Shapes of Art History in the 20th Century
2017.2.26 2:00-5:00pm

Language: Chinese
Venue: The University of Chicago Center in Beijing, 20th floor, Culture Plaza, No. 59A Zhong Guan Cun Street, Haidian District, Beijing, China
Organizer: OCAT Institute
Co-organizer: The University of Chicago Center in Beijing
Supported by: Beijing OCT

Booking: The events are free. Please sign up via the official wechat account-ocatinstitute-by providing the date of event+name+phone number

General inquiry: info@ocatinstitute.org.cn
Media inquiry: press_ocatinst@foxmail.com

Jas’ Elsner Launch Lecture Series

Jas’ Elsner Launch Lecture Series constitutes the first phase of OCAT Institute’s 2017 Annual Public Programs, and is an integral part of OCAT Institute’s 2017 Annual Lecturership. This three-part lecture program is curated and organized by OCAT Institute. The lecture series will provide preliminary discussions for the Jas’ Elsner Seminar Series from next spring onwards, and will prepare historical and theoretical ground for the specific thematics of Seminar One (March 2017). After the postponement of the first two lectures due to unforeseen circumstances, the three installments of the Launch Lecture Series will officially unfold in January and February 2017, to be followed by Jas’ Elsner Seminar One in March.

Historiography is the key theme for the entirety of OCAT 2017 Annual Programs, which take its cue from the 2017 Annual Lecturer Jas’ Elsner’s critical reflection and research, formulated at the intersection between art history, archaeology, and classical studies. Art historiography has as its main object of research the historical lineage of disciplinary theories and practices, a sub-discipline not given sufficient critical attention until the 1970s. Since then, a historiographic turn acted as a key site of intellectual archaeology for as well as alongside other related theoretical turns in contemporary art history. The result is both a narrative of disciplinary history that runs parallel to current art historical practices, and an intellectual genealogy whose trajectories are constantly redrawn from shifting standpoints in the present.

Jas’ Elsner’s historiographic study combines a philologist’s attention in his translation and close reading of early theoretical literatures in German Kunstwissenschaft with a broad vision that remaps art historiography onto the constant reconfigurations—historical, political, and religious—within the highly charged intellectual landscape of the twentieth century. The openness of his vision allows him to perceptively pinpoint connections and convergences between the history of art history and intellectual history, or history of ideas.  For Elsner, the paradigmatic case for such an open historiography is the two generations of Vienna School of Art History, established at the turn of the twentieth century and extending into the postwar period. In Elsner’s research, a critical investigation of the methods and theoretical underpinnings of Aloïs Riegl’s formalism, practiced most brilliantly in Die Spätrömische Kunstindustrie, is complemented by sustained looks at the ensuing debates on and responses to Riegl’s often elusive conceptual framework among art historians of the next generation. As such, Elsner identifies critical junctures within the textual and intellectual lineage of art history as a modern discipline, and thereby charts out a necessary genealogy f continuities and conflicts in methods and ideas. In line with Jas’ Elsner’s philologically based method, the Launch Lecture Series invites two important scholars and translators of the Wiener Schule, whose long-standing research and examination of the discipline’s early literature provides grounding for their lectures. Our historical background is that of the theoretical foundation and historical trajectory of the Vienna School, as well as instances of intersection and confrontation between Viennese formalism, or later Strukturanalyze, and iconology in early and mid-20th century. Our specific focus is its founding father Aloïs Riegl. The Launch Lectures will join historiographic overview with critical commentary on key concepts, and hopefully pave way for an extensive and variegated discussion on this important school of art historical research and its legacy for the humanities.


The Vienna School of Art History: A Cultural Legend at the Fin de siècle
The Vienna School of Art history is the only school of art historical research in Western cultural history, whose theoretical lineage remains both distinct and largely continuous. It emerged during the second half of the nineteenth century, and reached its apogee of theoretical innovation at the turn of the century. What intellectual figures and theoretical contributions originated from this legendary school of research? What impact did it have upon the formation of art history as a discipline in the 20th century and upon an ever-evolving history of ideas? This lecture returns to the historical genesis of art history as a discipline and seeks to delineate the contour of this important episode in modern intellectual history.

The Concept of Kunstwollen: Aloïs Riegl and the Shapes of Art History in the 20th Century
As the key member of the Vienna School, Aloïs Riegl is celebrated as “the most innovative thinker of our discipline” and as “a monumental ruin”. In the wake of turn-of-the-century modernism, through an intense and remarkable array of scholarly endeavors, Riegl opened up new avenues and terrains for the discipline of art history, and thus entirely transformed its writing and research during his time. This lecture will highlight Riegl’s famously controversial notion of Kunstwollen, and excavate its conceptual origins and its implications for the characteristic methodology of formalism. It will also revisit the ensuing responses and disputes on Kunstwollen among scholars and critics that lasted for more than a century, and thereby pinpoint Riegl’s defining role in the formation of major intellectual lineages within modern and contemporary art history.

Suggested Readings
Chen Ping, “Modernity and the History of Art: A Group Portrait of the Vienna School of Art History”, in Rong bao zhai, vol. 4, 2011, pp. 82-93.
Aloïs Riegl, Late Roman Art Industry (1901), excerpts from Chapter 2 (Sculpture) and Chapter 5 (The Main Characteristics of the Late Roman Kunstwollen), trans. Chen Ping, Peking University Press, 2010, pp. 49-56, pp. 259-269.


Chen Ping is Professor at the College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University, and is also a committee member of China Artists Association and Visiting Professor at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. Previously, he served as Associate Editor-in-chief at the China Academy of Art Press and Departmental Chair at the College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University. His research interests are architectural history and the historiography of Western art history. He is the author of Art History’s History and History of World Architecture (the recipient of First Prize in publication on philosophy and social sciences in Shanghai). A long-standing translator of key works in Western art historiography, Chen is also Editor-in-chief of Landmarks in Art History Series.



2017年2月25日 14:00-17:00

2017年2月26日 14:00-17:00

地点:芝加哥大学北京中心( 北京海淀区中关村大街甲59号文化大厦20层)
主办:OCAT 研究中心












阿洛伊斯·李格尔, 《罗马晚期的工艺美术》(第二章及终章选段),陈平译,北京大学出版社,2010年,第49—56页,第259—269页。



OCAT研究中心(OCAT Institute)是OCAT(OCT Contemporary Art Terminal)在北京设立的非盈利性、独立的民间学术研究机构,是OCAT馆群的有机部分。它以研究出版、图书文献和展览交流为主要功能,研究对象包括古代艺术和自上世纪以来中国现当代主义的视觉艺术实践,研究范围包括艺术家、艺术作品、艺术流派、艺术展览、艺术思潮、艺术机构、艺术著述及其它艺术生态,它还兼顾与这一研究相关的图书馆、档案库的建设和海外学术交流,它还是OCAT馆群在北京的展示平台。

开放时间:10:00 – 17:00  每逢周一闭馆
地址: OCAT研究中心(北京朝阳区金蝉西路地铁7号线欢乐谷景区站B出口向北100米)