Connecting Art Histories in the Museum. The Mediterranean and Asia


A Research Cooperation Project between the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (Max-Planck-Institut)

Museums play a key role in the on-going redefinition of art and art history in relation to aesthetics, anthropology and politics as well as in the global perspectives of the 21st century. The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin with their universal collections participate in this process in a particular way, offering a unique opportunity for research using multidisciplinary approaches on artifacts from different cultures and civilizations.

Conceived as a four-year research project, Connecting Art Histories in the Museum is a joint project of the Kunsthistorische Institut in Florenz (KHI) with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB). It comprises a fellowship program for excellent young international scholars designed to promote a novel combination of distinguished research and curatorial work. The program will first focus on artistic and cultural interactions in the Mediterranean area and Asia in the period between 400 and 1650.

In dialogue between Western, Byzantine, Islamic and Asian art histories, doctoral and post-doctoral scholars will study museum objects or groups of objects. Instead of concentrating merely on these objects' place in the history of pre-modern art on the one side or the museological aspects on the other, the research program is concerned with the modern repercussions and expressions of interactions between diverse historical topographies; these dynamics will be examined in the light of the following questions:

How can art-historical research deal with the transfer and exchange of moveable or immoveable heritage? How did the 19th to 20th century, and how does the new or newly emerging, museum landscape in Berlin articulate political and cultural attitudes to historical sites of production, accumulation and translation of artifacts? How do museum displays evaluate and stage the ritual and aesthetic dimensions of objects? What possible dynamics exist between objects in the museums that are alien to each other in provenance and historical context or in terms of the sites where they were historically preserved? These questions, and the horizons they open up, include the redefining of the relationship between art and knowledge as well as exploring the borders between art and non-art.

The Art Library , the Museum for Islamic Art and the Museum for Asian Art in Berlin have participated since the first phase of the project. The fellows work directly in the respective museums. Thus, they are enabled to work with originals as well as in close contact with academics in these institutions. The joint activities of the research group, through seminars, workshops, excursions and conferences, coordinated by the KHI and curators and academics of the SMB as well as international experts, will allow optimal academic exchange and research both within and outside the museum.

The international fellowship program is aimed at doctoral and post-doctoral students of art history and related disciplines. The fellowships are granted for one year, and can be prolonged for a further year. The fellows conduct independent and qualifying academic research in the archives and collections of the Museums, and have further the opportunity for curatorial responsibilities for individual exhibitions as well as participation in the development of new concepts for exhibition practice.

Project Management

  • Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf, Direktor des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
  • Dr. Hannah Baader, Projektleiterin Minervaprogramm, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Eissenhauer, Generaldirektor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Dr. Bernd Ebert, Wissenschaftlicher Referent des Generaldirektors, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Directors and curators of the participating institutions

  • Prof. Dr. Klaas Ruitenbeek, Direktor des Museums für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Dr. Lilla Russell-Smith, Kuratorin im Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Dr. Stefan Weber, Direktor des Museums für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Moritz Wullen, Direktor der Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Research fellows from the first phase (2010-2012)

  • Satomi Hiyama, Museum für Asiatische Kunst: The Transmission of the Ornamental Motives in the Wall Painting of Central Asia
  • Amanda Phillips, Museum für Islamische Kunst: Actively Seeking Consumers: Everyday Objects of Islamic Art in their Social-Historical Context
  • Dr. Eva-Maria Troelenberg, Museum für Islamische Kunst: Grundsteine islamischer Kunst: Mschatta in Berlin
  • Dr. Friederike Weis, Kunstbibliothek: Prozesse der Bildfindung. Rezeption und Interpretation von Geschichten biblischen Ursprungs in der islamischen Buchmalerei

Research fellows from the second phase (since 2012)

  • Dr. Nadia Ali, Museum für Islamische Kunst: Deconstructing the Muslim Self and its Relevance to the Study of Early Islamic Art
  • Dr. des. Ines Konczak, Museum für Asiatische Kunst: Analyse der indischen Bildmotive und -komponenten in den buddhistischen Wandmalereien Kučas (Xinjiang, VR China) hinsichtlich ihrer Herkunft
  • Ching-Ling Wang, Museum für Asiatische Kunst: Praying for Ten-thousand Goodness: Research on 'Buddha's Preaching' by Ding Guanpeng
  • Magdalena Wróblewska, Kunstbibliothek: Between artifacts and their representations. The Rhetorics of Artworks' Reproductions from the Photographic Collection of Art Library in Berlin

Scholars from other institutions associated with the project

  • Dr. Mirjam Brusius, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte Berlin: Objekte ohne Status: (De)kanonisierungsprozesse vorderasiatischer Museumsobjekte in europäischen Sammlungen des 19. Jahrhunderts