Space in Art History: three lectures by Wu Hung

Space in Art History: three lectures by Wu Hung

OCAT Institute

June 6, 2016
Space in Art History: three lectures by Wu Hung

“Space and Image”: June 20, 2016, 4–7pm
“Space and Objects”: June 21, 4–7pm
“Space and Total Art”: June 22, 4–7pm

The University of Chicago Center in Beijing
20th floor, Culture Plaza
No. 59A Zhong Guan Cun Street
Haidian District, Beijing

T 8610 6737 5418
[email protected]

As an open initiative dedicated to research in art history, the OCAT Institute Annual Lecture Series intends to delineate the contour of contemporary thought, reexamine potential histories of contemporary art and create a platform of exchange and dialogue between the academic community in China and abroad. As one of the essential components of OCAT Institute’s public educational program, it promotes an approach to research that draws from a wide range of disciplines in the Humanities.

As the opening project of the OCAT Institute, the Annual Lectures invited the eminent French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman to give three lectures on “Image, History, Poem: 3 Lectures on the Visual Art of S. M. Eisenstein” from June 23 through 25 in 2015. As part of this project, from October 2014 to June 2015, the OCAT Institute also organized a series of public forums and a three-part Georges Didi-Huberman Research Seminar, the latter comprised three distinct topics, namely, “The Legacy of Aby Warburg,” “Montage and the Unconscious Archives,” and “Image, History, Poem.” During the same period of time, Georges Didi-Huberman was also invited to curate the opening exhibition of the OCAT Institute, titled Memory Burns. This series of events inspired discussion and drew the attention of academics and art historians both in China and abroad.

In 2016, the OCAT Institute Annual Lectures invites Professor Wu Hung from the University of Chicago to lecture on “Space in Art History.” The event will be held at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing on June 20 through 22, 2016. Starting from the end of 2015 to September 2016, the OCAT Institute will host a variety of public events including research seminars, discussions, exhibitions, and publications. The three-part Wu Hung Seminar Series, directed by Associate Professor Guo Weiqi from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, is the first academic program of this project. Its first and second part, “From Monument to Ruins” and “Art History in Reconstruction,” successfully took place in December last year and April this year. The final part of this seminar series will take place on 23 June, following the third lecture of the Annual Lectures. An Exhibition About Exhibitions: Displaying Contemporary Art in the 1990s, an exhibition curated by Wu Hung, will also open on June 26.


Wu Hung, a permanent member of the American Academy of Art and Science, is a famous art historian, critic, and curator. Currently he holds the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professorship at the Department of Art History and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and is also the director of the Center for the Art of East Asia and the Consulting Curator at the Smart Museum at the same university. He sits on many international committees including Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council, and chairs the Academic Committees of OCT Contemporary Art Terminal and Yuz Museum. Wu Hung’s research interests include both traditional and contemporary art. Regarding contemporary art, he has curated many exhibitions since the 1980s, including individual artists’ one-person shows, thematic group exhibitions, and biennales and triennials. In addition to the catalogues that he compiled for these exhibitions, he has published many influential books and anthologies, including Making History: Wu Hung on Contemporary Art (2008), Wu Hung on Contemporary Chinese Artists (2009), Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents (2010), and Contemporary Chinese Art: A History (2014)


Space in Art History
This lecture series considers the possibility of establishing a new methodology in the study of art history.

For a long time, analysis in art history has revolved around two central concepts, namely, “image” and “form.” But the term “space” and concepts related to space (including “liminal space,” “feminine space,” “political space,” “positional significance,” “layering,” “front-and-back composition,” etc.) have frequently appeared in my art historical writings and begun to form a framework that I use for observing, describing and interpreting works of art. Before now, however, I have not reflected upon the use of space in art historical practices in a comprehensive, methodological sense.

This realization raises the following questions: What ground or logic can be found in the development of the study of art history for a research methodology centered around “space”? Can this new methodology help break open and then reconfigure conventional links between object, subject and context? Can the pursuit of these questions lead to a new set of research and analytic methods, which would reach beyond the conventional divide between image, architecture and culture, and also incorporate the study of objects, context, and subject into an integrated process of analysis?

Although space differs from image and object, it is always concrete and never abstract in art and architecture. This series of three lectures will conduct a preliminary survey of “spatial analysis” as a research methodology in the study of art history through a summary of and a reflection on my past case studies in Chinese art history.

Wu Hung, 2016


Booking: Attendance is free, please sign up via [email protected] (please provide your ID, name and phone number.)


2016 OCAT Institute Annual Lectures: Wu Hung

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