History of Art Research Seminar
In 1976, the V&A staged an exhibition dedicated to the history of art periodicals since their inception at the end of the eighteenth century. Whilst a conventional catalogue was discussed in the early stages of the exhibition’s development, it never came to pass, seemingly due to financial limitations. Independently of the museum, however, the exhibition’s guest curators, Trevor Fawcett and Clive Phillpot, published concurrently with the show a balanced collection of essays, modestly described as ‘background reading’. But the exhibition was also bracketed by the appearance that year of special issues of two British magazines dedicated to its theme: The Connoisseur; and Studio International. The former, conceived at the suggestion of V&A director, Roy Strong, proclaimed to be an ‘alternative catalogue’, providing somewhat simplistic, historiographic, illustrated surveys of titles such as Apollo and The Burlington Magazine. The latter, by contrast, comprised contributions in a number of different formats, both in terms of genre of writing as well as mode of visual expression. These included, for example, what was termed a ‘reprographic documentation’, an intervention through which, its abstract stated, ‘the use of the exhibition catalogue and the art magazine as exhibition spaces emerges’.
This lecture will examine these three publications alongside each other, and in the absence of an official catalogue, in order to consider the status of the journal as a key site of art-historical innovation and experimentation in the wider context of the discipline and its exhibition practices in Britain of the mid-seventies.
Samuel Bibby is Associate Editor of Art History, journal of the Association of Art Historians. Trained at the University of Exeter, Courtauld Institute of Art, and University College London, he was formerly Editor of the journal Object, and Teaching Fellow in History of Art at UCL. His research paper, ‘The Magazine as Catalogue, or, The Assemblage of Specimens’, is drawn from a larger book project addressing the history of art-historical periodicals, tentatively titled The Pursuit of Understanding: Art History and the Periodical Landscape in Twentieth-Century Britain.