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Friday, November 2 • 9:00am - 10:30am
1.B. The Object of Objects

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PANEL. The Object of Objects

"Postcolonial Perspectives on Surrealist Collecting and Display Methods and their Impact on Indigenous Objects in Present-Day Modern Art Collections in the United States"
Kristen Strange
Arizona State University

This paper critically examines how the surrealist collecting of Indigenous material culture during the early twentieth century influenced modern art collections in the United States and how current postcolonial discourse on the ethical treatment of artifacts might be brought to bear upon surrealist-influenced art museum collections. Many Surrealists collected Indigenous objects and presented them as modern or surrealist art objects. By mid-century, surrealist collections profoundly influenced and in fact reshaped major private collections of modern art in the United States that also followed the practice of recognizing ethnographic objects as modern art. These private collections were often later relocated to public art museum institutions, which then adopted their own distinct display methods for integrating Indigenous objects into their collections or even retained surrealist modes. This paper addresses major ethical questions that arise when considering Indigenous material culture in postcolonial western art collections. It looks at the need for museums today to understand the ethnographic objects in their collections, and what this means for the objects themselves and their intended uses. I discuss recent discourse by Native scholars, such as Amy Lonetree and Nancy Marie Mithlo, and ideas about best practices for the treatment of ethnographic objects in modern art collections—in new exhibitions of art and in reference to earlier surrealist collections. Furthermore, I consider how shifting paradigms in museum practices, postcolonial theory, and recent American Indian scholarship, impact the way we think about surrealist collecting methods and how they might be addressed in present-day collections and art institutions.

"The Dreams of Keys: From Magritte to Digital Photography"
Pierre Taminiaux
Georgetown University
My presentation focuses on the study of a set of my own digital photographs that is entitled The Dream of Keys. It is inspired by Magritte’s painting The Key of Dreams, in which the surrealist artist combined words and images on the canvas. This work, which was created in 1930, is based on the representation of various everyday objects, from a glass to a lady’s shoe, from a hammer to a hat, and from a candle to an egg. Its original character stems from the fact that the various titles associated with each of these objects do not correspond to their actual names. Therefore, instead of merely naming objects, the painter developed imaginary relationships between distant realities. My own work, The Dream of Keys, echoes his perspective through a conceptual approach of digital photography. By also bringing together objects and words that do not convey their true meaning, I stress indeed the dream-like nature of everyday objects (keys, in this case) and their ability to stimulate both visions and speculative thoughts. I emphasize in this regard the essential role played by language in the construction of a poetics of objects, since both in The Key of Dreams and in my own The Dream of Keys, words reinvent objects by extracting them from the mundane world of the everyday: they lead then to the aesthetic power of chance and to the exploration of man’s inner life.

"A Surrealist Collector: Gordon Onslow Ford"
Caterina Caputo
Center for the History of Collecting, The Frick Collection

The majority of studies dedicated to the British Surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford (1912- 2003) so far have dealt with his role as a painter, investigating mainly his art theory and his painting production. The purpose of my paper is to present my recent post-doc research on Onslow Ford's collection. According to recent publications (Ades 2016) collections played an important role for Surrealism, as they represented a way to shape and re-shape the ideology of the group; indeed, the Onslow Ford collection was a clear representation of his artistic approach and ideology. My paper aims to analyse not only artworks he collected, but also the epistemological meaning that he gave to his collection as well as the relationship he established with museums and artists close to the Surrealist group after his move to the US in 2 1940. Emblematically, as soon as Onslow Ford joined the Surrealist group in 1937 he started to set up a Surrealist collection with the help of the leader of Surrealism, André Breton; and the collection increased rapidly. Onslow Ford's approach to art has been explained by the painter himself in 1938, in an article published in the parisian review " Minotaure ", he wrote indeed: "On peut constater que la matière n'est que l'ombre informe de la realité " a reality that – in his opinion – has to come out from the inner world of the artist and it can be visualized by the audience through paintings. It is right from this sentence that I would like to start the epistemologically analysis of Onslow Ford's collection as well as his act of collecting.

avatar for Caterina Caputo

Caterina Caputo

Post-doc researcher, Center for the History of Collecting, The Frick Collection
I have received my PhD at the University of Florence, Pisa, and Siena and currently I am a post-doc researcher at the Center fort the History of Collecting at the Frick Collection in NY, with a project on the Gordon Onslow Ford’s collection. My work addresses topics at the crossway... Read More →

Kristen Strange

Arizona State University

Pierre Taminiaux

Georgetown University

avatar for Patricia Allmer

Patricia Allmer

University of Edinburgh

Friday November 2, 2018 9:00am - 10:30am EDT
Room B. Hildreth-Mirza Hall: Humanities Lab (lower level)