A case for writing contemporary art history

As the art world becomes more globalised, diversified and inclusive, writing about art becomes more uniform. Art historian James Elkins presents this claim about art historical writing in his 2020 book, The end of diversity in art historical writing: North Atlantic art history and its alternatives. The conundrum for writing about contemporary art is an ‘impending single history of art’ that risks being flattened into a homogenous world discourse. As art history becomes more global, the increasing diversity in subject matter and authorship does not generate the same level of diversity in terms of how it is written. For Elkins, these texts risk being standardised by the writing conventions of what he identifies as ‘North Atlantic’ art history. So, a single art history is being perpetuated as more art, artists and narratives from more locations are written following standardised methods of art writing.

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