On Things!

One of the great challenges of the 21st century in the humanities and cultural studies is the examination of objects. Many disciplines have discovered “things” as a means of opening up new subjects and universes of discourse. Art history plays a central role in the current discussion on things: traditionally, the field has always been about objects, whether these were paintings, statues, buildings or craftwork; however, the turnaround in visual culture has broadened its universe of discourse to include objects of popular culture and everyday culture, religious practices and things of scholarship. Broadly speaking, art history today is also a history of knowledge because it investigates objects in their epistemic contexts, thereby initiating renewed discourse. Finally, the most recent debates on provenance and restitution have drawn the attention of the general public and politics to concrete things and their biographical trails.

In light of this development, the Congress of German Art Historians would like to examine the further and long-term possibilities of this subject for the field of art history. The focus is on questions relating to the materiality of insights and to the epistemic potential of artefacts: as a medium of knowledge and of histories and stories, of courses of action and of social relationships, as something that can move seamlessly between cultures and disciplines, as the biographical trail of its creator and of itself, but also as a challenge to earlier theoretical debates. Which questions, practices and reading materials transform art historical artefacts into “things of knowledge”? What kinds of knowledge do they record, materialize and enable, how do they guide and influence perception, reasoning and actions? How is the material dimension of knowledge related to its aesthetic and figurative dimensions? And how does the perspective on the knowledge of objects impact the universe of discourse of art history and its relationship to other disciplines?

The university of the Enlightenment at Göttingen provides the perfect setting for this discussion: its historic collections furthered the development of distinct academic disciplines, as shown by the world’s oldest chairs in archaeology, art history and ethnology. The university is currently working on the project “Forum Wissen” to closely examine things as they relate to human cognitive processes from the perspective of the history of scholarship. The “materiality of knowledge” is the acknowledged focus of the university.

The sessions will thoroughly examine the “knowledge of objects” both historically and systematically, irrespective of the traditional boundaries between the disciplines, genres, institutions, professional guilds and national forums. In doing so, the sessions will draw upon different historical strata from all fields of art history from the art of the Ice Age to modern times.

In addition to a distinct focus on content, the sessions are to inclusively as possible reflect the current scholarly discourse of various professional groups in the art history field (museums, heritage protection organisations, universities and research institutes and the liberal professions), but also contribute to the exchange between institutions and networks and their representatives. The programme sessions clearly demonstrate how the focus on the object will raise both specific and multi-disciplinary questions: one focus of the discussions will be on the effects and possibilities of digitalisation on how objects are examined, as well as issues of provenance and art market research. “The knowledge of objects” is explored based on different groups of objects – the book as a condensate of knowledge, the architectural model as a form of discourse on dominance, church art as a witness to denominational change. For this reason, the executive committee of the Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker e. V. (Association of German Art Historians) and the Institute of Art History at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen are hoping that the different professional groups in the field of art history will come to the 35th Congress of German Art Historians to take part in the exhaustive discussions. Consequently, session topics were chosen that examine contexts relevant to the issues from new art historical perspectives.

Following the call for session topics in the autumn of 2017, interested colleagues are now invited to submit their proposals for individual lectures relating to the sessions listed below, the sessions of the professional groups as well as the sessions of the working groups of the association. Applications may only be submitted to the association office using the online application portal on the congress website.

For each proposal you can submit an exposé limited to 2,500 characters (incl. spaces) via the online application form. Please include a short biographical note (max. 10 lines) in tabular form. You may also submit up to five main areas of research and the titles of five published works.

Papers for the sessions (five 30-minute lectures per session) and the sessions of the professional groups (two 30-minute lectures each for three of the four professional groups) will be chosen during a joint meeting of the session chairs, the members of the executive committee and the local committee. The chosen speakers for the sessions and professional groups are expected to be members of the Association of German Art Historians at the latest by the beginning of the year of the congress – provided that they have a degree in an art historical field and are a resident of Germany.

The chairs of the working groups will review and choose from the proposals submitted for the two working groups (two or four 20-minute lectures).

We would like to draw attention to organisational changes that have been made to the forums: due to a steady increase in the number of forums held over the past few years and constantly growing demand, we have instituted an application process this year that involves the submission of a draft paper by members who would like to hold a forum. Association members who are interested in chairing a forum are invited to send an exposé (1–2 page pdf file) per e-mail to the association office. Should the number of submitted applications exceed the number of available time slots, the members of the executive committee will decide which forums will be held.

Should you have any questions about the application process, please contact the office of the Association of German Art Historians in Bonn (e-mail: ).

The deadline for applications is 25 May 2018, 6.00 pm.



1. Object Book. The Codex as Object in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period

The medieval codex was used for the generation, preservation and communication of knowledge, for religious and aesthetic edification, for devotion, instruction and entertainment. However, it is not just a collection of texts and images, but far more than a sum of its parts and contents: an object that can only be understood in its entirety, that has specific qualities shaped by the materials and media used. All of these play a significant role in determining how knowledge is structured and perceived.

The codex was designed based on its intended use; how it was handled depended upon the parameters set by the choice of materials (such as compact cover/pliable inside) and was guided by formal conventions and cultural techniques that were (further) developed in this format. These include the structuring and accessibility of content based on specific organisational units such as the page or spread and on practices such as turning the pages or the presentation of the closed book. For an approach aimed at the codex as object, it is not practical to discuss the issues of materiality, production and the use of codices and their contents separately, even though they are traditionally investigated as separate issues by the disciplines which deal with manuscripts.

Based on these considerations we welcome papers presenting pertinent case studies, traditions of book production or corpora. The following questions could provide starting-points for discussion: To what extent do the parameters set by material or media influence how the book is used and how its contents are received? How does the interplay of design traditions and factors relating to material and media further the communication of knowledge? Which “traces of use” (in terms of media-specific evidence of concrete use and usability) are found in codices, and which knowledge processing approaches are they related to? Which images highlight the status of the codex as an object? Which further objects emerge from the contexts of use of the codex, and to which properties of the codex as an object do they refer back to (furnishings and artefacts for production, storage, use, e.g. lecterns, cabinets, decorative book covers, cases, book pouches, etc.)?

The session focuses on the codex format widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages, but papers on other book formats (e.g. the rotulus) or other book and manuscript cultures are very welcome.

Tina Bawden, Berlin / Karin Gludovatz, Berlin


2. Turning Tides. Church Art and Religious Change around the North Sea (1400–1700)

This multidisciplinary session focuses on the interaction of artefacts with a transforming religious context around the North Sea during the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern period. The cultural and religious history of this European sea region has remained conspicuously underrepresented in scholarship, when compared to other waters including the Mediterranean and the Baltic.

On the eve of the Reformation, Europe’s Northwest was as tightly bound up with medieval Christianity as any other part of western Europe, resulting in a strong religious – and hence also cultural – unity. Networks such as monastic affiliations, political and economic contacts and kinship stimulated the exchange of art and artists, facilitated by sea transport. In the age of the Reformation, however, all shores around the North Sea went their own ways in religious affairs, with the Low Countries becoming divided between a Calvinist North and a Roman Catholic South, while England became Anglican and northern Germany, Sweden and Denmark-Norway became Lutheran. All mentioned denominations “inherited” – or more often: seized – the existing medieval church buildings, their furnishings and liturgical equipment.

This session will question the use and perception of religious monuments and artefacts in their specific epistemic contexts of religious denominations before and during the Reformation. What was maintained, what was destroyed or removed and in what way? What was the balance between change and continuity regarding church buildings, furnishings and liturgical vessels in view of the use of space and liturgical ritual during the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism? How were forms, functions, technical innovations and uses of artefacts spatially adapted to accommodate a new liturgy? How was the sacred power that once imbued medieval objects and images and its visual and acoustic presence dealt with by Protestants materially, aesthetically and ritually? How were medieval church buildings, objects and images transformed in order to establish and create new cultural and religious identities? To what extent was the potential for religious change inherent to the objects themselves? And lastly: can objects and images be cross-denominational?

We also invite papers from related disciplines, including theology, musicology and church history.

Justin Kroesen, Bergen / Antje Fehrmann, Hamburg/Berlin


3. Objects of Importance: Architectural Models and Dominating Culture

In architectural scholarship, a central role is played by the model: as a medium of design, reconstruction and representation, but also as a collector’s item. The relationship between architectural models and claims to power and interpretation grows more significant when the issue is considered from a historical perspective and in the context of a globalised world. When architecture becomes an object or thing, it moves into multiple new contexts of perception and effect. Just as architects and rulers use models to discuss and tangibly stage (territorial) visions of the future, thus touching upon the political dimension of the subject, so can the architectural and municipal models exhibited in museums become the basis for the legitimisation of (retrospective) building projects, conceptions of history and knowledge systems. These are often accompanied by specific ideas about “development” in terms of aesthetics, culture and civilisation, the hierarchical structure of which requires critical examination.

What knowledge is thus linked to architecture in model format? How does this influence the storage, archiving or forgetting of legacies and what does it mean for the exhibition of architectural models in public institutions ranging from architectural and art collections to municipal, historical and military museums? By the same token, how do these museum pieces influence the production and reception of architecture?

The session discusses these and further questions based on case studies or comparative historical or cultural perspectives. Papers that question the interdependency of value systems and prerogatives of interpretation are welcome. The objective of the session is to analyse the integration of architectural models and to demonstrate the role they play in forming, establishing and also eradicating the “dominating cultures” that accompany the balance of power in society, politics or institutions.

Brigitte Sölch, Florence / Dietrich Erben, Munich


4. Bundles – Ensembles – Object Collective. Research Questions on the Artefact as Part of a Group

Studying an artefact based on the assumption that it is a unique specimen is an approach widely used in university and museum scholarship. Artworks and objects are examined, exhibited, inventoried and restored as individual objects. However, this perspective leaves out the fact that over the course of their object biographies, many artefacts were by no means isolated, but considered part of larger groups. Graphic reproductions or drawings were compiled and pasted in albums, interrelated paintings collected and displayed, works of treasury art combined to inalienable home treasuries, the rooms of princes decorated with a handpicked selection of objects. In museum practice, there have also been phases in which bundling across genres was common, such as furnishing the “rustic room of a farmhouse” according to 19th-century ideals or putting artefacts on exhibit by theme.

This session discusses the scholarly possibilities and problems involved in investigating bundles of objects. The focus is not only on the motivation driving the person putting together the bundle, but also the role the object itself plays in its selection based on its biography. Why are different objects put together in groups, how does this change the meaning of the individual object, how long do these ensembles last, who accepts or preserves and who deconstructs them and why? What role does knowledge growth, shifts in interpretation or misconceptions play?

In addition to a historical examination of museum collections, the session looks at the active processes of group formation and their effects on the development of object biographies. Case studies as well as relevant theoretical deliberations are welcome.

Justus Lange, Kassel / Antje Scherner, Kassel


5. Provenance of Things. On the Reception of Object Biographies

This session focuses on the relationship between the individual history of an object and how it is perceived. Papers should clearly show the indivisible interdependence of the object and its history of ownership. We would like to focus on three related questions: What effect does the provenance of an object have on its material as well as non-material value? How do the history of ownership, exhibition and discourse of an object influence its reception on the art market, by private and public collectors as well as its coverage in the media? And how is this modified perception of objects reflected by their exhibition in museums?

An exact analysis of the object is the starting point for any research into provenance. This includes the clarification of fundamental data such as material, attribution, authenticity and exact dating as well as questions pertaining to the time when the work received its title, the authenticity of its frame as well as the search for clues about its biography in and on the object itself. For this reason, it is especially important for us to specifically look for any material traces of the chain of ownership that may be present on the object itself. First and foremost, an object should be examined as a palimpsest that bears traces of its previous owners. However, just as important is considering the use of presentation tools such as frames, pedestals, display cases, etc., the methods used in the object’s restoration and other modifications to or inscriptions on the object that were intended to directly influence how it was perceived. Does this mean that it is necessary for scholarship to return its focus in art historical research to the object itself? To what extent can the cultural self-concept of the original or owning society be inscribed into a single object?

During the session, research into provenance should be understood as not limited to a certain epoch, thus not exclusively from the context of Nazi plundering (Nazi art theft). Likewise, we would like to encourage the submission of papers that do not or do not just focus on works of the fine arts, but also craftwork and objects related to technological or natural history and ethnological objects. Lectures on individual objects as well as on individual institutions and broader historical interrelationships and methodological issues are also welcome.

Ulrike Saß, Bonn / Christoph Zuschlag, Bonn


6. Market Makes Culture: Works of Art Caught between the Poles of Culture and Markets

Although the stereotype of the “autonomous artist” has repeatedly been examined critically in art history over the course of the 20th century, it remains the more or less virulent starting point of many monographic investigations as well as exhibitions. The same can be said about works that are primarily understood and communicated in such contexts as manifestations of artistic genius. Although sociological and economical approaches have frequently been applied in art history in the past, up until this point, the specific (art) object as medium and object of action between the poles of economics and culture has rarely been analysed and discussed.

This session specifically addresses the relevance of economic constraints in and for the development of (art) objects. Within this context, various facets of these objects can be discussed from a new perspective, e.g. to what extent “market requirements” influence such factors as invoicing, materiality, motifs, subject matter and outward appearance of objects. When such criteria are developed, defined and communicated by individual persons, who are in turn representatives of e.g. cultures, social classes, groups or professions, the work of art can simultaneously be understood as a significant element of social relationships between, for example, clients, patrons, buyers, artists and interested members of the general public. The various possible means of viewing a work should also be examined, as it can be perceived and used in certain contexts as an object serving primarily commercial purposes.

In addition, the art object can be understood as the product of (negotiation) processes between the aforementioned actors, which, in its specific materiality and form, can provide information about these processes. Finally, this perspective is further differentiated by the fact that specific objects are on the one hand unique pieces, but can on the other hand be understood and used as prototypes or models for entire series of works or products, which then allow broad distribution as a specific response to the aforementioned “market requirements” that have been realised in a single object.

We welcome the submission of papers that discuss topics such as the transformation of an art object into a commodity (e.g. through the merchandising of art works at blockbuster exhibitions), or the position of the artist in the market network (from the procurement of materials, the conditions of production and opportunities of presentation to marketing), such as the adaptation of designs to market dynamics, trading by auction between the poles of market and private use or the copy (as medium of appropriation, revaluation and appreciation in value).

Henry Keazor, Heidelberg / Katja Patzel-Mattern, Heidelberg


7. Research on Drawing in the Digital Age

Many graphic art collections are currently working on their extensive holdings to allow digital access to them. For example, the “Graphikportal” (Foto Marburg) provides combined access to the diverse inventories of more than two dozen collections; further collections are constantly being added. Accordingly, this process must comply with diverse curatorial and scholarly requirements. Works on paper represent an immensely rich reservoir of occidental visual culture. However, during the last few decades they rarely drew the attention of teaching and their study often suffered due to their being reduced to a medium of the design process, model provider or reproduction. Allowing digital access to inventories of graphic collections opens up as yet unknown possibilities for teaching, while at the same time promoting adjustment of the academic curriculum. Most of all, however, it harbours great potential for deriving new insights.

A number of different problems and issues have been raised: which criteria govern this process, does it satisfy all scholarly requirements? Is information now just more readily and broadly accessible, with pictorial information instantly at hand, or does the better availability add a new quality to scholarship? Does the availability of massive and ever-growing amounts of material challenge traditional methods, how can and should a balance be found between new digital-based approaches and traditional methods?

Will this new factual basis result in the raising of new questions and lead to new methodological approaches? For which issues is this form of documentation sufficient, will autopsy continue to be indispensable and connoisseurship remain an absolute necessity? Will digital comparability change the method of comparative form analysis?

The example of art on paper – in particular drawings – can be used to examine the changes that arise through digital documentation: the significance of traditional connoisseurship for research into drawings, the relevance of object qualities that cannot be reproduced digitally, possible differences in the digitisation of works of the Early Modern period up to contemporary art, how to discuss anonymous objects or those with changing attributions, the construction of artist oeuvres or the consequences for teaching and methodology in the field of art history.

We hope that papers will address the various aspects of this problem, if possible from the diverse perspectives of the university, museum, art trade, etc.

Anne-Katrin Sors, Göttingen / Martin Sonnabend, Frankfurt am Main / Joachim Jacoby, Düsseldorf


8. Material Agencies

The attempt to define the surplus of forms as the intrinsic activity of created works using the term “image act” was based on the categorial distinction between things and objects. The model is provided by Alberti’s understanding of the image (simulacrum) as a thing of nature that only exhibits a minimum of human intervention, one such example being roots modified with only a few carvings. This accessory transforms a thing into an object in the sense of an “objicere”, i.e. the reciprocal relationship of throwing and throwing back. Each arrangement brings the things back as objects that contain more “energeia” than was invested to create them.

However, in light of recent developments, this distinction between things and objects that is fundamental to the image act has increasingly proven problematic. In analogy to the image act, advanced research in the material sciences describes the seemingly passive thing in the terms of active materiality. This definition of “active matter” fundamentally changes the sciences and the entire culture. Technologies are no longer solely based on the idea of passive natural objects and materials, but of things that are themselves transformed into physical and symbolic actors and thus intrinsically harbour their destiny. This changes the classic perception of images, spaces and materials, turning them into closely related active carriers of information through their self-activity. The objective of the session is to examine the role of images in this fundamental process and determine to what extent the connection between active images, spaces and materials can be recognised and possibly also shaped under the influence of this transition. In the digital age, this transition simultaneously leads forward to a new, analogue future and back to a past that, together with Alberti, also incorporates the innovation potential of Antiquity.

Horst Bredekamp, Berlin / Wolfgang Schäffner, Berlin


9. Object or Work of Art? For the History of Knowledge in Art

Since the “material turn” in the history of scholarship, the focus has not only shifted to the material, technical and media processes of insight acquisition, but also to the aesthetic and performative figurations of knowledge. Correspondingly, an in-depth examination both of the material aspects of artistic work processes and of the practices of scholarly analysis and the interpretation of the object within the framework of historical bodies of knowledge can be observed in art history.

The session looks at this development and discusses the material-based approach to examining works of art used by both the makers and the viewers of art. The focus is therefore on the techniques used by artists who develop their works from out of the material as well as the object-based analyses used by art history, restoration and materials research and finally their interpretative strategies in the context of current scholarship history. Can work processes also be understood as a form of experimentation with the materials that continuously re-establishes visual knowledge? And what knowledge is gained from the work if it is touched or exposed to X-rays or electromagnetic radiation? Does research into materiality lead to a new understanding of the work that is no longer based on conceptions of genius or ideal beauty, of auratic presence or perfection? Instead, does this shift the focus to the unending processes of gaining and visualising knowledge of which the work bears witness?

We would like to see a debate from multiple points of view on works of art as objects of material processing and examination to discuss the artistic and art historical practices that give rise to the actual works of art – or begin a new discussion about them as a special kind of “epistemic things” (H.-J. Rheinberger).

Margarete Vöhringer, Göttingen / Michael F. Zimmermann, Eichstätt-Ingolstadt


10. Object Digitalisation: Methods and Prospects

The form an artefact takes not only indicates its possible uses, but also allows conclusions to be drawn about the behaviour of the maker, his know-how and experience. This form analytical approach is particularly well suited for recording and reconstructing by means of digital methods.

The session will focus on object digitalisation as part of an in-depth materials examination, with the objective of establishing the criteria for the historic perception of objects in the sense of a microhistory (“history of a thing”, “object biography”) and considering the associated schematisation and its scholarly uses. The challenges of object digitalisation, which are currently under discussion, primarily concern three areas:

  1. Method discussion of digitalisation processes: How can the material quality of an artefact be fully documented and standardised? Which process is suitable for which object? How can the processes be automated without dispensing with the diligence necessary for conservation and restoration?
  2. Possibilities of analysis: Which research questions can be addressed through digitalisation? How and to what extent are form analytical approaches more stringently reproducible through digitalisation? Can artefacts be non-verbally inventoried using digital methods of pattern recognition and precisely how is this achieved? Which new possibilities for gaining insight arise from digitalisation?
  3. Effects on art historical work: What are the hermeneutic implications – which result from changes brought by digital working methods and require the adoption of similarly modified visual habits by the object sciences – of object digitalisation? Which changes have already been made as a result of working with digital visualisations? What conclusions can be drawn from this for the future?

The session would therefore like to discuss the methods and possibilities of object digitalisation for the field of art history, but also for other object sciences. Papers are welcome that address a number of the aforementioned challenges and illustrate them using Best Practice examples.

Martin Langner, Göttingen / Stephan Hoppe, Munich

Professional Groups

Professional Group “Universities and Research Institutes”: On the Status of Objects in Art Historical Practice

Recent scholarship in cultural studies and the humanities is characterized by an unsettling discord: several theories have been constructed around a rehabilitation of things, images and artefacts, which are no longer understood only as sign vehicles, as objects of subjective constructs or merely as instrumental-material conditions of human action. Based on quite disparate rationales and accentuations, the emphasis has shifted to the irreducible role of objects in the constitution of individual actions and in social practices.

Thus, on a theoretical level a shift back to things can be perceived and the focus is centred firmly on their materiality. In scholarly practice, institutions and in research funding programs, however, changes that meet the challenges of these recent theoretical insights are only gradually emerging. How would we have to design the places and situations that would allow us to seriously address the “challenge of the object” and its materiality? Does this not require in particular art history departments at universities to develop new forms of cooperation with museums, namely with curators and conservators, or with heritage protection organisations? And do we not have to rethink our curricula, research agendas and formats of research funding?

The meeting of the professional group is to be considered an invitation to reflect on how we can further develop our own research practice and its institutional framework. The main emphasis is therefore not primarily on discussing current theoretical viewpoints; rather, the papers submitted to the professional group should recommend suitable practices and approaches that reflect the most recent theoretical challenges and insights. It may be useful to discuss examples of more recent research projects with regard to their potentials and problems. Also welcome are papers that discuss the implementability of current approaches (material culture studies, actor-network theory, practice theory, cultural technology research, speculative realism, etc.) for scholarly work practices.

Johannes Grave, Bielefeld / Helga Lutz, Bielefeld


Professional Group “Museums”: Museum Things – Challenges and Prospects

Events are being held and literature is being published on the current situation of museums, which many consider in need of reform, and prognoses are being made on the “museum of the future”. If museums would like to maintain their importance for society in the future, then they will have to meet the current challenges of digitalisation and economisation.

Intrinsic negotiations are already being held to restructure and meet the challenges facing the museum as an institution – such as during the anniversary conference of the Deutscher Museumsbund (German Museum Association) in 2017 – but it is both important and essential that the professional group “Museums” of the Association of German Art Historians also develop its own standpoint on central questions in order to be able to play an active role in the processes of change. This can be from a unique perspective: from the viewpoint of art historians who carry out various functions at museums. By also incorporating the viewpoints of colleagues from universities and the liberal professions, a diverse and differentiated point of view is achieved. It is important to remember that museums hold a great deal of influence on how our field is perceived because they are the place where our discipline – and not least scholarly research – comes into contact with a broad audience and great public interest. Therefore, the profession must take a position; this process should not only consider issues that have been discussed in other places, but also identify and define further issues – especially those that are relevant from an art historical point of view.

We hope that participants will approach the chosen subjects with an open mind and that the session will be joined by colleagues from different kinds of museums and the various professional groups. The theme of the Congress of Art Historians places the object at the centre of attention, the constituent element of museums, quasi their “raison d’être”. This gives rise to a large number of issues that need to be addressed, including: What is the significance of the object in museum practice? How important is research in the museum context (still) today? What are the different possibilities for presenting an object – especially in view of the more extensive presentation and communication options made possible by the digital age? And more generally: Are the traditional objectives and the self-concept of museums really so in need of reform as claimed by a growing number of voices? Does this have consequences for the function, staging and reception of objects?

Marcus Dekiert, Cologne


Professional Group “Heritage Conservation”: Young Things – New Objects and Prospects in Heritage Protection

The professional group “Heritage Conservation” of the Association of German Art Historians invites participants to discuss current issues in this field and the contribution of art history. What stimuli can and should art history or art theory offer the specialist field of heritage conservation and which demands need to be made from the point of view of this science, especially as a means of distinguishing it from the architects working in heritage conservation? As the field of heritage conservation and protection is waging a continuous battle to justify its existence to the general public, politics and administration, any arguments and strategies that art history can offer are welcome.

A long-standing issue is the translation of scholarly findings from the field of art theory into criteria to qualify heritage characteristics. The discussion could focus on the period of the 1970s and 1980s. In light of the ongoing building boom, there is enormous pressure to modify buildings and facilities that only date back 30 to 35 years even prior to systematic inspection and appraisal.

Another topic that needs to be discussed is the consistent use of a definition of heritage that is based on layers of time, in particular for buildings dating back to the 19th to 20th centuries. Can heterogeneous structures be considered a discrete value beyond their “original building fabric”, and how do modifications influence the object that is or could become a historic monument? Modifications that have been made to older buildings are often considered fixed constituents, but is this also the case for heterogeneous structures from the 20th century?

The professional group expressly invites younger colleagues to submit papers from research and practice.

Martin Bredenbeck, Cologne / Christina Mayer, Luxembourg


Professional Group “Freelancers and the Self-Employed”: What Is the Value of My Work and What Does the Market Pay? – Professional Fees for Freelancers and the Self-Employed

Professional fees are an important topic for freelancers and the self-employed. With a gross value added of 98.8 billion euros, the cultural and creative industries form one of the strongest markets in Germany; their share in the gross national product is twice as high as that of the chemical industry. However, at 32%, they also have an extraordinarily high share of partially employed persons. Anyone who chooses self-employment is faced with a highly heterogeneous market environment. In contrast to the medical or legal professions, the professional fees of art historians are not regulated by professional organisations and their codes. Furthermore, it is difficult to gain admission to the comparatively inexpensive Social Insurance Fund for Artists (Künstlersozialkasse). In the course of our consultancy work with freelancers, we have noticed that the fees paid for services in the art history field tend to be too low.

Many newcomers to self-employment lack the necessary complex economic understanding and accept the dumping fees frequently offered in calls for tenders issued by public institutions. It is only when they are actually fulfilling the contract that freelancers begin to ask themselves the necessary questions, such as: Am I even making a profit? How do I calculate the value of my work? What determines the market value of my services? Anyone who does not proceed with the utmost care risks burnout or even the abandonment of self-employment.

During the meeting of the professional group “Freelancers and the Self-Employed” of the Association of German Art Historians, we would therefore like to initiate an in-depth discussion of professional fees and social insurance. We would like to address how prices are set and what the reasons for dumping fees could be.

What can we as an association do to prevent such practices? How do freelancers negotiate commensurate fees? What do we need to be aware of when we apply for admission to the Social Insurance Fund for Artists? Are there alternatives? How can we create stronger networks and develop greater solidarity via our association?

This year, the professional group is not participating in the call for lecture topics, but is planning to invite experts to lecture on and discuss such topics as the development of prices on the market and the Social Insurance Fund for Artists. Moreover, the professional group will be holding a “Gründersalon des Verbandes Deutscher Kunsthistoriker” (Founders Salon of the Association of German Art Historians) in Göttingen to provide a platform where ideas can freely be exchanged.

Anne Fischer, Murnau / Holger Simon, Cologne

Working Groups

Working Group “Art History and Education”: On Things – Teaching and Learning through Objects

The working group “Art History and Education” of the Association of German Art Historians is discussing the contribution and responsibility of art history in education. This concerns teacher advanced education for schools as well as educators in museums. We also consider heritage pedagogy, which has not yet been fully accepted by institutions. However, it also touches upon scholarly communication in educational contexts. And finally, feedback from general discussions on educational justice, inclusion but also participation and “Sharing Heritage” from scholarly discourse will be put up for debate. The culturally, religiously and socially heterogeneous groups that have long since become standard in schools present a challenge for a field that in many places still upholds a monoculturally coded educational canon as the norm.

Let’s consider the possibilities and potentials of objects and the necessary communication strategies: The discussion at the Congress of Art Historians in Göttingen will focus on the potential of the materiality of objects for didactic concepts. Which skills are required to initiate an interactive approach? Which methods, which didactic means and concepts allow access to the potential of objects for education?

The working group offers a forum where projects can be put up for debate, but also a platform for the discussion of general issues. Proposals for 20-minute lectures that explicitly introduce and reflect upon object-based concepts and projects are welcome.

Martina Sitt, Kassel / Barbara Welzel, Dortmund


Working Group “Digital Art History”

a) Digitally on Things

The field of art history has in the meantime also joined the dynamically growing trend in the humanities of using work methods based on digital data and digital-based communication. Digital representations of buildings and artworks – just as engraving and photography were in their time – are initially always just a subordinate substitute of things produced in a different medium. However, the complexity of the new formats allows much more data to be recorded, saved or communicated today than was possible through one of the traditional two-dimensional and analogue images. Thus, the “things” show more of their different facets on digital media.

Consequently, it is to be assumed that object proximity and digital depiction are complementary and, particularly in the context of digitalisation, a growing interest in the materiality and objectness of art has recently emerged.

The session of the working group “Digital Art History” of the Association of German Art Historians will consist of four lectures discussing aspects of the topic “Digitally on Things” from various perspectives and in particular in regard to practical work areas in the field.

We request the submission of papers on the following topics (lecture titles can be changed):

  1. Reconstruction and representation – image, space, time, virtual reality (topic area: digital representation, formats used in the three- and multidimensional reconstruction and representation of architecture and artefacts and their use in the scholarly context)
  2. The works that we refer to – recording and ensuring the addressability of works of art and scholarly data in conformity with the standards (topic area: digital data modelling and object description, application of vocabularies and authority files, interdisciplinary and international interoperability)
  3. What we don’t see – technical art examination and its digital documentation (topic area: recording technical and material aspects as well as their integration into digital art historical research infrastructures)
  4. On things or away from them? Digital communication of architecture and art (topic area: communication of art historical issues within and outside of heritage sites and museums by means of digital technology)

We particularly encourage representatives of the respective institutions (museums, research institutes) or of specialised working groups to submit papers relating to their current work that go beyond the mere presentation of a project.

Peter Bell, Erlangen / Stephan Hoppe, Munich / Georg Schelbert, Berlin


b) #arthistoCamp: Digital Research on Things

On the day before the Congress of German Art Historians (26 March 2019, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.), the working group “Digital Art History” of the association and the Chair for Classical Archaeology and its Digital Methods of the Georg August University of Göttingen are holding a BarCamp preconference on “Digital Research on Things”.

We invite you to participate in the workshops, lectures and discussion rounds of this BarCamp to discuss issues pertaining to the digital modelling of knowledge, its digital distribution and the digital generation of insight and knowledge in object-oriented scholarly fields such as art history and archaeology.

BarCamps are so-called “non-conferences”; the programme and topics of these events are decided by the participants on the day of the event itself. The format of the BarCamps is especially well suited to discuss a topic in all its breadth, based on the specific needs of the participants as a starting point. Catering, rooms and presentation materials are provided. Registration is necessary for organisational reasons and will be possible in late 2018.


The forums have been a fixed part of the programme of the Congress of Art Historians since 2017. First and foremost, they offer interested colleagues a possibility for networking. In addition to internal exchanges, specific topics can also be discussed with a broader professional community. As the forums have become a popular feature of the Congress of Art Historians, we have already reached the logistical limits. For this reason, we ask that short applications in the form of a draft paper be submitted by those interested in holding a forum.

Each forum will probably be allotted a time slot of two hours. The association has no influence on the contents of the forums; this will be determined by interested groups of members. However, the association would like to see a higher degree of integration into the framework of the congress and also asks for volunteers who would be willing to assist new members during the congress. For this reason, a discussion lounge will be set up in addition to the actual sessions that will serve as a meeting place at certain, agreed upon times.

The submitted statement of interest should include a short summary of the content of the planned forum and a brief outline of how it will be executed. The forums should be chaired by two members of the Association of German Art Historians. Further suggestions are welcome on how the forums and the association could work together more closely outside of the Congress of German Art Historians. If member groups do not wish to hold a forum that is open to the public, i.e. should they wish to discuss organisational concerns with a limited number of participants, then they have the option of using a conference room.