CFP: The Collector and Cultural Narratives, SECAC (Birmingham, AL, 17-20 Oct, 2018)

The Collector and Cultural Narratives, 1845-1918

Birmingham, Alabama, United States, October 17-20, 2018
SECAC Sessions (pdf)


Session Chair
Julie Codell, Arizona State University

From mid-19th century, a new kind of art history narrative about private collectors appeared in Europe and the US, e.g., Anna Jameson’s Companion to the Most Celebrated Private Galleries…,1844, Gustav Waagen’s Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 1854-57; Dumesnil’s multi-volume Histoire des plus célèbres amateurs…, 1853-1860; the Gazette de Beaux-Arts‘s series on “amateurs,” 1850s; F. G. Stephens’s 90 Athenaeum articles on British collectors, 1873-84; Edward Strahan’s (pseud. Earl Shinn) The Art Treasures of America (1879-1882); Wilhelm Von Bode’s catalogues of private collections, 1913. Oscar Vázquez contends that these books, “a creation of the modern era,” reflected “new discourses” with “increased attention to…the collector over the collected object” (Inventing the Art Collection, 57-58). Collectors shaped new contexts, audiences and interpretations for art, new reputations for artists, national roles for themselves, and art histories fueled by cultural ambitions. Examining the cultural impact of these studies, panelists may consider questions such as (but not limited to):

  • How was art’s social and cultural functions defined by narratives about collectors?
  • How did these narratives shape collectors’ images?
  • Did these narratives revise 18th-c. images of collectors?
  • Did narratives about collectors inflect notions of the modern? of tradition?
  • Did studies of aristocratic collectors endorse cultural hierarchies?
  • Did collector narratives privilege local, national and/or global cultural ambitions?
  • What cultural features and purposes were identified with the collector?
  • Were collectors presented as tastemakers? public servants? cultural paradigms?
  • Did collectors’ practices clash or agree with institutional definitions of culture?
  • How did collectors’ motives and desires affect their collections’ meanings?

Julie F. Codell
Professor, Art History
Barrett Honors College Faculty
Affiliate Faculty: Film and Media Studies, English, Women and Gender Studies, Center for Asian Research, Center for the Study of Film, Media and Popular Culture
School of Art MC1505
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-1505


What is SECAC?
SECAC is a national non-profit organization devoted to education and research in the visual arts. Founded in 1942, SECAC provides advocacy and support for arts professionals and engenders opportunities for the exchange of scholarship and creative activities through an annual conference and publications. Though founded initially as an organization of artists, scholars, and arts professionals from the southeastern states, SECAC has grown to include individual and institutional members from across the United States and around the world, becoming the second largest national organization of its kind.