Art history in the 1990s was mesmerized by globalization theory and contemporaneous phenomena such as transnational biennale exhibitions. It put up keen resistance to the postcolonial turn (which originated in literary studies) in the 1980s before gradually dismantling the paradigm of modernist primitivism. But the fact that the voices of scholars dedicated to the study of black diaspora art have made themselves heard—however belatedly—indicates a transformation in the discipline that is firmly under way and that is, moreover, wholly irreversible in its consequences.

Kobena Mercer  |  2012

By the mid-1980s, then, the ideological issues that have characterized debate within the discipline were imbedded in the faculty: the presence and importance of “non-Western” cultures and their arts; the distinction between art objects and artifacts, between “high” and “mass” arts; the methodological tensions among formalism, iconography, “social history,” “cultural history,” and anthropology; and the most basic questions about the discipline as a history of “monuments” or as an assemblage of histories imbedded in objects redolent of local meaning(s).

Peter Bacon Hales (on the UIC Department of Art History)  |  1995