This event is part of the Museo Reina Sofía master lectures series, a public program that began in 2010 as an attempt to better understand the methodological tensions that have transformed art history in recent years. At the same time, the annual master lecture serves as the inauguration to the Museum's academic year, which consists of numerous activities related to its multiple University master's programs, independent study programs, debate forums and research residencies. In addition to these initiatives, this public activity introduces a new facet of the contemporary museum: a place for training and research.
After the master lectures given by Linda Nochlin (2010), about realism as the first language to be used by the avant-garde in its political engagement with 19th century working class struggles, by T.J. Clark (2011), about Guernica studied from the perspective of a new social history of art, and Simón Marchán Fiz (2012), which looked at the reactivation of a text as essential as his “From object art to concept art” on the 20th anniversary of its publication, this year's event has invited Hans Belting (Andernach, 1935).
This German historian is the author of a vast and highly relevant body of works that explores art history as an anthropology of images, rethinking the historiographical foundations of today's art and examining the effects of globalisation on the discourses, institutions and audiences of contemporary art practices.
Thus, publications such as Bild und Kult: Eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst (published in English in 2004 by the University of Chicago Press, as Presence and Likeness: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art) and Bild-Anthropologie (published in English in 2011 by the Princeton University Press, as An Anthropology of Images) make an inquiry into how the image is being redefined following the critique of representation. The image, claims Belting, is not really an end in itself but rather a social activity, that is, it is not determined so much by the why as by the how, by its role in public life and its function in collective identity. After this series of essays, which had an enormous influence on historians such as Georges Didi-Huberman and Dario Gamboni, Belting tackles other vectors with which to narrate contemporary art, which he differentiates epistemologically from modern art. In this way, The End of the History of Art? (published in English by the University of Chicago Press, 1987) and Art History after Modernism (University of Chicago Press, 2003) deal with the dialectics between art criticism and art history, the role of the museum institution, art's new performative temporality and the fragmentation between audiences and counter-audiences, putting forward many of the concerns regarding contemporeneity not as a time but as a theoretical model.
Hans Belting's current interests include globalisation and its relationship with the new geopolitical system of contemporary art, as shown by his recent publications, such as The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds (coedited, with Andrea Buddensieg and Peter Weibel, MIT Press, 2013), and by his role as director of important research groups in this field.