Chinese Object Study Workshops
Sophisticated visual analysis is a hallmark of art history and depends on skills acquired through the direct study of objects. These skills must be taught and practiced. Yet as graduate art history curricula have expanded to include training in methodology, historiography, and theory, training in object study has all but disappeared. The problem is exacerbated for students of Chinese art history, whose graduate curricula must also include language courses and related subjects such as religion, literature, and history.
Chinese Object Study Workshops is a pilot program that will provide graduate students in Chinese art history an immersive experience in the study of objects—in particular, those belonging to the great collections of Chinese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler). The workshops will help students develop the skills necessary for working with objects, introduce them to conservation issues not readily encountered in typical graduate art history curricula, and familiarize them with important American museum collections.
Four weeklong (Monday–Friday) workshops are planned in total, with two scheduled for each of the next two academic years:
- Freer|Sackler, June 3–7, 2013
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, August 26–30, 2013
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2014
- Freer|Sackler, 2014
Each workshop is intended for around 12 graduate students, to be selected from across North America through an open application process. These students will study and work with a team of faculty and curators from the host museum. The program will conclude with a two-day conference at the Freer|Sackler in November 2014 for all participating students and faculty. Exact dates for each workshop will be determined based on relevant academic calendars.
The program is funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and advised by a steering committee (Jonathan Hay, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU; Stephen Allee, Freer|Sackler; Patricia Berger, University of California, Berkeley; Maxwell Hearn, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Hui-shu Lee, University of California, Los Angeles; Colin Mackenzie, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and Nancy Micklewright, Freer|Sackler). The Freer|Sackler is administering the program.
Chinese Object Study Workshops is a pilot program that will provide graduate students in Chinese art history with an immersive experience in the study of objects—in particular, those belonging to the great collections of Chinese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler). The workshops will help participants develop the skills necessary for working with objects, introduce them to conservation issues not readily encountered in typical graduate art history curricula, and familiarize them with important American museum collections.
The first workshop will take place June 3–7, 2013, at the Freer|Sackler, and the second August 26–30, 2013, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The programs for these two workshops are described below. Participants in each workshop will spend the week engaged in intensive object study, discussion, and research with a small group of other graduate students, two faculty members, and curators and conservators from the host museum.
Participants will be required to complete assigned reading in advance of the workshop. Afterward, they will be expected to complete a potentially publishable research project based on an object or objects they encountered.
The program is open to students enrolled in a graduate art history program at a North American university and pursuing a doctoral degree in Chinese art. Applicants may be of any nationality and may apply for more than one workshop. Transportation, lodging, and some meal support will be provided.
Workshop One: Chinese Bronzes
Host: Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution
- Jenny Fung-Suk So, Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Guolong Lai, University of Florida
- Keith Wilson, Freer|Sackler
Dates: Monday–Friday, June 3–7, 2013
The collection of ancient Chinese bronzes in the Freer and Sackler Galleries will be at the center of this workshop, designed to give students an understanding of different types of bronzes, methods of manufacture, stylistic evolution and iconography, and inscriptions. As time permits, the religious and social significance, role of antiquarianism, connoisseurship, and collecting history in the study of archaic bronzes will also be considered.
Emphasis will be placed on close observation of the bronze objects so that students will learn how to look and understand what they are seeing. Workshop participants will also be exposed to technical analysis of Chinese bronzes in the Freer|Sackler Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.
Workshop Two: Writing and Chinese Art
Host: Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Qianshen Bai, Boston University
- Peter Sturman, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Maxwell Hearn, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dates: Monday–Friday, August 26–30, 2013
Drawn from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Chinese collections, a range of calligraphy and classical paintings that incorporate textual elements will introduce students to various approaches to Chinese writing. The workshop will cover topics such as reading different calligraphic forms (scripts), calligraphy as an art historical subject, and the role of writing in larger text-image programs. Through close visual analysis of the objects, students will be well equipped to read signatures, inscriptions, and seals, and to understand the important ways in which writing informs the aesthetic, historical, and expressive dimensions of objects. Emphasis will also be given to issues in connoisseurship, exploring materials, techniques, and questions of authenticity.
How to Apply
The application deadline is January 4, 2013, with decisions announced by February 1, 2013.
Applications must be submitted in English and include:
- Application cover sheet
- Curriculum vitae
- Graduate school transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
- 500-word statement discussing why the workshop is of interest; relevant previous research, classroom work, or teaching experience; and the impact the workshop will have on future research and professional development
- One letter of recommendation from a professor of Chinese art history in a sealed envelope signed across the flap. The letter of recommendation may be included with the application or sent directly from the reviewer. Email is also acceptable if the letter is sent directly from the reviewer. In either case, it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the letter of recommendation arrives by the January 4 deadline.
If applying for both workshops, please submit two separate applications. The same referee may submit a letter of recommendation for both applications.
Email complete applications to email@example.com.
Object Study Workshop
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
MRC 707, P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Address for Express Delivery Services
Object Study Workshop
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20560
Please direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Museum Partners and their Collections
Jonathan Hay, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, email@example.com
Patricia Berger, University of California, Berkeley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hui-shu Lee, University of California, Los Angeles, email@example.com
Nancy Micklewright, Freer|Sackler, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kailin Weng, Freer|Sackler, email@example.com