Don’t go to a museum with a destination. Museums are wormholes to other worlds. There are ecstasy machines. Follow your eyes to wherever they lead you, stop, get very quiet, and the world should begin to change for you. And if you see me, say something! We can talk about it together.- Jerry Saltz (via cavetocanvas)
They were worth more to me and moved me more than the whole British Museum, for I have studied that kind of thing and could in some degree appreciate them. One minute I felt like crying and the next I wanted to stand on my head and yell.-
Bolton Coit Brown records his reaction to an exhibition of Turner drawings in a letter to his parents. Has an artwork ever moved you to tears or yelling?
Bolton Coit Brown, Paris letter to Edmund Woodward Brown and Martha Coit Brown, 1887 June 13-14. Bolton Coit Brown papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
inbtwnsongs asked: I apologize if this sounds like a silly or hard question to answer but I've been thinking about majoring in art history for a while but have no idea what to do with it after im done. Any advice? Pros and cons? Thank you!
Hi! That’s a great and really important question! It’s actually the most common question I get, so I have a whole page called For Undergrads with links to different Q&As and articles I’ve written about this :) (There are several posts on that page about grad school that I would recommend looking at as well, just so you can get an idea of what types of careers require grad school or figure out of grad school is something you might ever want to pursue after you get your Bachelor’s.)
"Why Choose Art History?," one of the first articles I ever wrote for Caravaggista.com, could use some revisions, but I think for the most part it should still be useful:
Why Choose Art History?
This was written with several types of readers in mind:
- prospective college students unsure of if it’s wise to be an art history major
- current art history students who want a validation of their choice of study
- anyone who wants to know what they can do with a degree in art history
In short, Pros:
- Pro: Education. You should get an interdisciplinary education as an art history major, since history, politics, religion, literature, economics, science (conservation/preservation), and so much more are all factors that influence art and artistic production. At the same time, your school may allow you to “specialize” by taking language classes and writing a senior thesis in a specialty of your choice.
- Pro: Writing & Observational Skills. Art history will make you a better writer. Maybe not right away, but it will happen. You will learn how to scrutinize in great detail what you see and read. Art, artists biographies, and writings about art are often not what they seem or are often loaded with biases. Art history (particularly theory courses) teaches you how to weed out the different methods art historians use to talk about, whether those methods are anachronistic or not. The same is true of biographies, autobiographies, and self-portraits, which were all modes of self-fashioning (or in the case of biographies, a mode of propagating a specific set of ideas about an artist’s personality and work.)
- Pro: Real history. One of the things I loved about my undergrad work was the emphasis on using primary sources as much as possible in my research. It didn’t matter if the primary sources were translated or in their original languages; only that I was engaging with the thoughts, language, and ideas of the historical period. Even if I hadn’t used primary sources in all my papers (I did), I still appreciated that my department put an emphasis on this. It helps you to better understand the art you’re studying and, in a way, transports you back into that moment. The same is true of learning the language of whatever period you want to specialize in, which your school may require. (My undergrad required 3 languages.)
- Pro: The people. Art historians & art history students are generally a great bunch of people. This varies from school to school, but in my experience, there’s something about art that creates a bond between people that isn’t dependent on external factors.
- Pro: You get to spend four years of your life looking at some of the greatest treasures ever made!
In short, Cons:
- Con: Money. You probably won’t make a lot of money as an art history major fresh out of college unless the right opportunity presents itself to you. As a general rule, the higher your degree, the more money you might eventually make (for instance, if you got a PhD and were awarded tenure); but even this is in jeopardy with the current all-to-common exploitation of adjuncts. Still, a PhD will allow you more opportunities than a MA and a MA will allow you more opportunities with a job in art history than a BA. Think outside the box when it comes time for you to job hunt. This website is a good resource.
- Con: Competition. (Only a con if you’re not a fan of or driven by competition.) I don’t think you’ll have to worry about competition too much during your undergrad coursework, but it is still important to actively try to set yourself apart from your peers if you want to get an internship or eventually get into grad school (especially grad school).
- Con: Public & Private Opinion. (Only a con if you care.) For some reason, the public and many families seem to be completely mystified by the concept of art history. It is if the pursuit of the humanities rather than the sciences will send the student into mental, physical, and financial destitution. Art history is often treated as a worthless major in the media, with the paradoxical recognition that art and museums are a crucial part of the human experience (and of child development). The media and familial skepticism is not necessarily unfounded; it is true that if you take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans to fund your art history education, you might have a tough time paying it back. And this is a factor (or consequence) you have to gauge for your own individual situation. And of course, not all parents mind. I am a firm believer that the value of your education is determined by you, not by the media or by your family. (See my personal essay “The Value of my Degree.”)
I hope this helps. Good luck as you make this very important decision, and please keep me posted!
Anonymous asked: What career are you studying art history for?
That is a very good question- and I’m going to keep my answer brief (if that is even possible.) I’m on the fence between going hardcore into academia, or going the museum professional route.
I really like the idea of writing papers, teaching, and generally mentoring people - I’d love to be the one who is able to somewhat articulate the complexities within the art historical discipline as well as how awesome experiencing art is.
However, I am not looking forward to the language requirements, general ivory-tower attitudes, and bureaucratic red tape of institutions.
As to what within art history I want to study - I would love to be able to both focus on critical theory of art history practice in general (why is this discipline set up the way it is? how did we get here? how can we move forward?) as well as just studying awesome early netherlandish and dutch baroque art.
So tl;dr - I don’t know! Right now I’m trying to just accomplish small markers that interest me rather than think of a larger career path. I want any future job or scholarship opportunities to fit into my tick box to-do list, rather than force myself into one path. I’d be content with be an adjunct professor while still doing cool artsy non-profit community work too!
My advice — begin working, interning, or volunteering with museums as soon as you can! Museum jobs and work is experience built upon experiences. It can be a very internally feeding field — those who volunteer or intern are prime candidates to continue their work at various places.
While academia may have its own hoops and red tape, museums are no different, and have their own requirements. Which is to say, someone who got their PhD but has no museum experience is less qualified to work in a museum. (This is anecdotal, an ABD instructor admitted she wished she had pursued museum work, because she did not end up having job qualifications for it). Sometimes failsafes of studying the Art History languages (in your case, I suggest German), or having experience in museums will be more beneficial than turning around later and not having the experience. Plus research is done inside museums all the time!
Not to mention, for better or for worse, any non-profit has bureaucratic red tape. Internal politics require their own deft navigation, which frankly — is a part of any career. And while there are no requirements for professional graduate degrees, museums as a field generally tend to look most favorably upon students with MAs or PhDs.
My own experience as a curatorial intern taught me I wanted to pursue my MA/PhD in Art History so I can become a curator — although I did consider a graduate professional museum studies degree, I felt that it would be redundant to my undergraduate degree in museum studies.
Still, there’s a great deal of interesting work to be had in museums that isn’t curatorial — I love education work, I find it amazing, fun, and challenging. I just decided I wanted to be a curator who emphasized work with whatever education department I worked alongside in the future. You might enjoy museum education quite a bit, if you like teaching and research.
They are also expelling the performance artists, the poets, the muralists, the activists, the working-class families — all these wonderful urban tribes that made this neighborhood a very special neighborhood for decades…One day…they will wake up to an extremely unbearable ocean of sameness.- Art Practical contributor Guillermo Gómez-Peña nails it in the most recent piece to publish on the effect of the tech industry in the Bay Area (via New York Times) —> http://nyti.ms/1ekN0em (via artpractical)