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  • Writer's pictureVertu Art + Design


Updated: Mar 19

image below: the classic connoisseur of 18th-century collecting in America, Jayne Wrightsman. the collector's Palm Beach home, depicted here, has now been demolished.

A Revised Post-Pandemic Perspective

In recent years there has been much debate over the merit of the connoisseur / connoisseurship in art, which has been deemed an elitist tradition among some academics. There are several critics of this sentiment, one of which is particularly compelling: connoisseurship, or the practice / cultivation of the human eye discerning artworks, is ever more important with the presence of AI. There is also the fact that women in art history, often banned from membership at art academies, etc., made their mark through connoisseurship and collecting. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Wrightsman Galleries of eighteenth-century French decorative art, for example, were an inspiration to me as a graduate student aspiring to be a curator with a public mission (the history of decorative arts is closely tied to the history of women in art, for which I recently gave a lecture for the Canadian Federation of University Women). Widening access to such collections encourages the process of looking (and not just reading) that is an education itself. The primal exercise of looking at art ignites our emotional and neurological connections to that art (there is no need to explain here the many proven, positive affects this can have on one's health, or even the teaching of medical students). We live in an era, in which images are increasingly traded for real-life experiences. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the importance of actual presence in the context of art, to which connoisseurship is intrinsically linked. How do we improve public access to collections, in an era of emerging infectious disease, apart from digital means (?) Live engagement with artists and their creations is a cornerstone of my past work as Executive Director, having designed art programming (with local, national, and global art, sport, and science partnerships, largely for under-served minority populations) that demonstratively improved community health. My research and projects continue to explore intersections of art and science, which have contributed to the health of individuals and communities, past and present.

Original Post June 9, 2014

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