Art Centers and Peripheral Art [A Lecture at the University of Hamburg, October 15, 1982]

Change in the history of art has many causes, but one often overlooked by art historical institutions is the complex, unequal set of relationships that subsist between art centers and peripheries. These take many forms, from powerful penetration of peripheral art by the subjects, styles and modes of the relevant center, through accommodation to this penetration to various degrees and kinds of resistance to it. Mapping these relationships should be a major task for art historians, especially those committed to tracing the reception of works of art and the dissemination of ideas about art. This lecture, delivered by Nicos Hadjinicolaou in 1982, outlines a “political art geography” approach to these challenges, and demonstrates it by exploring four settings: the commissioning of paintings commemorating key battles during the Greek War of Independence; the changes in Diego Rivera’s style on his return to Mexico from Paris in the 1920s; the impact on certain Mexican artists in the 1960s of “hard edge” painting from the United States; and the differences between Socialist Realism in Moscow and in the Soviet Republics of Asia during the mid-twentieth century. The lecture is here translated into English for the first time and is introduced by Terry Smith, who relates it to its author’s long-term art historical quest, as previously pursued in his book Art History and Class Struggle (1973).

ARTMargins, Volume 9, Issue 2, Page 119-140, June 2020.

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