Is Art History Globalizable?:

Table of Contents

A number of issues remain in reconstructing World Art History (WAH), which was hotly debated in the West at the beginning of this century. The basic problem of WAH is its reliance on a Western-centric framework that excludes other regions.

In France, artworks that resemble the Western avant-garde are dismissed as mere imitations, whilst innovative ones made in Japan are not seen as avant-garde because there is nothing resembling them in the Western framework. Jean-Hubert Martin curated Magiciens de la Terre (1989) to force Tibetan lamas and Ghanaian artisans into the framework of Western art but was criticized for that very reason.

The unique characteristics of cultural spheres become apparent in their expressions of space and time. Arata Isozaki held an exhibition in Paris that expressed Japanese space as defined by the concept of spaces in between, or ma. Augustin Berque noted that value in Japanese architecture resides not in the individual but in the “spaces between”—or aida, another reading of the kanji character ma—that serve as their medium. Attention is drawn to the eaves and fusuma sliding panels of Japanese homes, which were interpreted as inventions of an age prior to the strict delineation of space and time.

The problems associated with WAH has the potential to liberate thought from the Western framework of space and time. It was in the “cracks” in the turtle shells of ancient Chinese oracles that Hubert Damisch found hope for an art history decisively different from received notions of art history. Inaga neither blindly follows nor dismisses the proposals of WAH; instead he attempts to identify in their fluctuations dissonances between the East and West.