There’s no love lost between Sarah Thornton and art historians in her ArtForum Diary entry for this Valentine’s Day. She was at the US convention of academic art historians, the CAA, moderating a panel on Damien Hirst when one hoary professor complained about Contemporary art’s beguiling appeal:
“Maybe we should drop the word ‘history’ from ‘art history,’ ” declared Patricia Mainardi, a professor from CUNY’s Graduate Center. She was regaling a standing-room-only crowd last Thursday during her opening remarks for “The Crisis in Art History,” a panel she had convened for the annual College Art Association conference, which took place over four days at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan. Mainardi, an art historian recognized for her work on nineteenth-century Europe, deplores the fact that eight out of ten art history grad students are now studying contemporary. Why do they? The global economy, explained Mainardi, is like a “sun whose magnetic attraction pulls other bodies out of alignment.” […] Yet, for those of us who stick to writing, researching, or teaching contemporary art, the global economy is less a motivator than an object of study. And the fast pace of change means that, like it or not, 2008 is history.
Search Party (Scene&Herd/ArtForum)