This presentation discusses two issues in teaching introductory art history courses to art and design students. The first question relates to designing a syllabus that focuses on global art history. This is part of the ‘decolonising the curriculum’ discussion. The second question concerns whether to present the course material in a chronological sequence, or to design the course around themes or questions relevant to art and design professionals now. Although these questions are not new, they have returned to currency and there now seems a greater urgency to decolonise the curriculum. In 2022 at least two important art history course material publishers have repackaged their content to include more art from outside the western canon. However, this ‘decolonising’ can mean simply augmenting the old style art history survey course with more material from cultures outside the western canon. It is also a move that is arguably still generated from within the dominant North Atlantic academies. These two questions of global art history and chronological versus topic-based courses are interrelated. In a chronological course it is difficult to fit the material culture of so many places around the world fit into a time sequence. The problem of the art history canon also remains. How do we decide which cultures and artefacts to include given that we can’t include everything? This presentation aims to open up further discussions of these issues, and to suggest ways forward.
Martin Nixon is Assistant Professor of Art History at the College of Art and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates. His research interests include Early Modern architecture, materiality and affect in the Early Modern period, the reception of ornament, Southern Italian art and architecture, and the question of global art history. He completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of York on architecture and aristocratic power in eighteenth-century Sicily, and he is currently working on a book on this topic which will hopefully be published by Amsterdam University.