The research program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices. Kunstgeschichte und ästhetische Praktiken started at the Forum in 2013 aimed to open art historical studies to a global horizon, beyond the traditional boundaries of the discipline. It created a space of dialogue for scholars from all continents and regions, to discuss the potential and contours of a plural art history. By doing so, it envisaged dialogue among Islamic, Asian, African, European and Latin American art histories and archaeologies as well as other fields dealing with the history of visual cultures. The program addressed the connectivity of larger historical spaces and investigates artefacts and artistic production in a comparative approach, experimenting with new methodologies and forms of collaborative research.
The concept of aesthetic practices introduced by the program invited the study of artefacts, their materiality, and processes of transfer and transformation in a transcultural perspective. This included the dynamics of production and the perception of things, images and architectures from the time of their creation to their first apprehension up to the present day, including their display, storage, oppression or reworking.
Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices embraced sociological, historical, material, scientific, religious, legal, economic and philological questions or dimensions, together with the study of aesthetic practices. Chronologically, the program spanned from the early times of artistic production to the present day. It was structured along three thematic lines: 1. Materiality and Techniques, 2. Mobility, Transfer and Translation, 3. Narratives and Display. These categories were addressed on all levels. They were debated as a part of political, religious and social dynamics, with the artefacts as key components, participants or even actors. The project aimed to overcome the duality of formal versus contextual approaches to artefacts or object constellations.
The project was an initiative of the KHI in Florence (Max-Planck-Institute) and the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin, and was directed by Hannah Baader and Gerhard Wolf. Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices cooperated with the art history departments and the museums in Berlin and integrated the program Connecting Art Histories in the Museum (KHI Florenz/SMB). Up to ten postdoctoral fellowships per year, workshops, transregional academies and travelling seminars helped to establish a rich network of international scholars, for the redefinition of art history and visual studies in a transregional and global perspective.