Connoisseurship; a call to arms

March 27 2017

Image of Connoisseurship; a call to arms

Picture: Apollo

The editor of Apollo, Thomas Marks, has written a fine plea for greater advocacy of, and access to, connoisseurship, in light of the closure of Christie's South Kensington and the loss of some of the specialist positions once available there:

Now is the moment for those who lament the passing of connoisseurship to make the strongest possible case for what is at stake, and to work together to encourage its revival. We have already seen some of the younger Old Masters dealers give their field a shot of razzamatazz. At its best, that glamour acts as a grace note to expertise, taking exceptional paintings and sculptures and making us all feel involved in them.

That is not a model that will work in all fields, but the principle of inspiring or stirring people through an unprecedented intimacy with historical objects has many applications. I urge art dealers to do all they can to work with A-level and university art-history students, welcoming groups to discuss and handle objects; university art-history departments might even offer credit for researching them. And art fairs should set up formal programmes to host junior curators for handling sessions and workshops – after all, every fair has its lulls, and what more profitable way to fill them?

I encourage readers to send in further ideas that might help to revive connoisseurial knowledge. Then let’s turn them into actions.

Of course I entirely agree.

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