• Lida AbdulLida Abdul, White House (film still), 2005
  • Ai WeiweiAi Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, series of three B/W photographs, 1995
  • Ghada AmerGhada Amer, Eight Women in Black and White, 2004
  • Jimmie DurhamJimmie Durham, Bedia's Stirring Wheel, 1985
  • Shadi GhadirianShadi Ghadirian, Untitled from the Ghajar Series, C-Print, 1998–99
  • Anish KapoorAnish Kapoor, Marsyas, commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London, 2002
  • Li ShanLi Shan, The Rouge Series, No. 8, 1990
  • Annie PootoogookAnnie Pootoogook, Watching George Bush on TV, 2003
  • Imran QureshiImran Qureshi, Moderate Enlightenment, 2007
  • GR SantoshG.R. Santosh, Untitled, 1987
  • Fritz ScholderFritz Scholder, End of the Trail, 1970
  • Zineb SediraZineb Sedira, MiddleSea (film still), 2008
  • J SwaminathanJ. Swaminathan, Untitled from the Text Decoded Series, 1993
  • Xu BingXu Bing, A Book from the Sky, 1987–91
  • Xu BingXu Bing, Square Calligraphy Classroom, 1994
  • Zhang HuanZhang Huan, To Raise the Water Level of a Fish Pond (middle image of a photographic triptych), C-Print, 1997
  • Zhang XiaogangZhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: Big Family, No. 2, 1995

Multiple Modernities

During the last century, artists all over the world increasingly adopted a Modern artistic idiom and attitude, but their works are scarcely mentioned as belonging to Modernism—imagined as a system of Western art. International biennales were among the first to open to their work; recently, new biennales and sites for exhibition and publication—real and virtual—have been established around the world. The past decade has seen an explosion of artistic activity by artists from the "non-West" and their diasporas, now gaining gradual (and sometimes grudging) acceptance by Western art institutions.

The arrival in the West of modern and contemporary art from new traditions and neglected ones requires a fresh analysis and new theoretical basis. Many of these artists deal with issues of identity central to our times; some seek the mainstream and a dialogue with Western art history, while others focus on local audiences.

The aim of this integrated lecture course is to forge an analysis of an emerging subject. It is an exploration of a major addition to the "classical" arts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Americas for students in those fields, and an introduction to an expanded definition of contemporary art for students of modern and contemporary art.


Esther Pasztory pioneered the subject in a seminar titled "Modern Art Outside the West," which was offered twice before "Multiple Modernities," in 1995 and 2001. Here is the introductory paragraph from that syllabus:

"The aim of this course is to examine the adoption of the language of 'modern' art as a lingua franca by Nonwestern artists and the problematic ways in which they have, or have not, joined the mainstream. The first theme will deal with the transformation of traditional "tribal" arts into either tourist or fine arts, particularly through the agency of Westerners promoting Native life and economy. The second theme will be the dilemma of the Non-westerners who are ready and anxious to join the mainstream but who are unable to do so because, for the West, they are considered to be primarily ethnic. The acceptance of Western artistic languages will be explored both in the 'fine arts' and in popular media, especially photography. The trajectory of modern art will be explored briefly in the contexts of Latin America and Japan, to compare two regions with longer histories of westernization to the more recent ones. The seminar will deal with issues such as tradition, globalization, ethnicity, hybridity and identity in the twentieth century transformation of world art."

Initial Offering: Multiple Modernities (AHIS G6650.001)

Members of the faculty teaching Non-western art have created a joint offering on Modern and Contemporary art outside the West. This graduate lecture course will legitimize a field that has been in limbo between 'Modern' art and 'Ethnic' art for some time. Students are very interested in this subject and museums have held an increasing number of exhibits in this area; but so far there has been little theoretical or academic discussion of it. The new course will be a pioneering attempt to define and analyze the relationship of Western Modern art as a lingua franca in the creation of multiple modernities in the art of the rest of the world. It will consider the ways that Non-western artists calibrate their traditions with an increasingly global culture, how they relate to the mainstream as well as to their local contexts. It is expected that such an examination of the current globalization of art will have an interesting effect on our ideas of the classifications and interpretations of art history as a whole.

Esther Pasztory, who has given a similar seminar in the past, will introduce 'Multiple Modernities' with a theoretical framework illustrated by arts from different parts of the world. Keith Moxey will present relevant postcolonial theory as a part of this introduction. Area specialists will present aspects of their arts in greater depth. Dawn Delbanco and Robert Harrist will discuss Chinese artists, Vidya Dehejia Indian artists, Elizabeth Hutchinson Native American artists, Kishwar Rizvi Pakistani architecture, and Susan Vogel African artists.

In addition, we are planning an artist's panel, open to the Department as a whole, moderated by Susan Vogel, in which three artists from Non-western countries now working in New York will discuss these issues from their personal perspectives.

—From the Department of Art History & Archaeology newsletter (Fall 2005)

Course faculty has included Alexander Alberro, Zainab Bahrani, Vidya Dehejia, Dawn Delbanco, Robert Harrist, Elizabeth Hutchinson, Keith Moxey, Esther Pasztory, Kishwar Rizvi, and Susan Vogel; guest lecturers Layla Diba and Glenn Lowry; and guest artists Siona Benjamin, Alan Michelson, and Wangechi Mutu.

This graduate course has been offered in Fall 2009 and Fall 2007 under the direction of Professor Susan Vogel; and in Spring 2006.