Postscript by Henry Meyric Hughes, Jean-Marc Poinsot
The call for papers, to celebrate AICA’s 70th Anniversary was very open, but intended to focus on the national sections, as a way of complementing the histories of AICA that had already been published by the AICA Press, on the occasion of the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the Association and, above all, on the basis of what the Archives have been able to make accessible, thanks to the PRISME Project (2015-2018). (i) The texts we have received are all reproduced in their entirety on the website at https://aica-international.squarespace.com/70th-anniversary-publication and testify to this spirit of openness, both in their diversity and in the way they have broken free from any initial constraints.
One aspect of what we had been hoping for was linked to the emergence of the Archives de la critique d’art/ Archives of Art Criticism (ACA), (ii) in parallel to AICA, in response to an initiative of AICA France, with the aim of collecting, cataloguing, digitalising and conserving the archives of, first the French section, then those of the International Association. The founding of the Archives in Rennes ran parallel to the creation of similar institutions in other countries, including Brazil, The Netherlands, Spain and Denmark. (iii) The documentary resources assembled in this way and made accessible to a wider readership have also facilitated the compilation of some of the histories published here. We plan to publish a second instalment of new texts in 2020 – the second year of AICA’s seventieth anniversary – and hope that this initiative will contribute, in time, to the accumulation of fresh archival material.
For readers who are interested int historiography, each of the national histories of the Brazilian, Danish and Turkish Sections, along with the complementary accounts from the French and British sides of various attempts to support art criticism and help put it onto a more secure footing in Africa, reveals its own individual aspects and underlines some of the cultural and social issues at stake. We can readily understand that the interaction between cultural figures and the authorities in countries such as Spain, Brazil and Turkey, can lead to rather different kinds of account. Alongside these national histories, we can also sense the power of some very strong regional connections between countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway, or – to take a very different example -, between the islands of the South Caribbean. AICA members also often find that, in approaching the centres of power they come face to face with events of historic importance. Even today, the historic circumstances of artistic creation do not rule out the more individual kind of response that Sarah Wilson experienced, at a particularly compelling moment, on her visit to Moscow and Tbilisi for the AICA Congress in September 1989.
AICA is a professional association and, as such, represents the interests of its members. Hopes and disappointments (iv) find unalloyed expression in the congresses, seminars and colloquia that it organises in different parts of the world. Here and there, individual positions are articulated on the spot and feelings of pride or disillusionment slip into factual accounts (v). This serves to remind us that art critics always fight for a cause. That is what makes sense of their approach, and marks the difference between their texts and those of traditional art historians.
AICA still manages to hold regular annual congresses, sometimes in the face of considerable difficulties. But will critics’ growing reliance on digital technology and the social media lead to a diminution of interest in the kind of face-to- face encounters and exchanges that characterise such events? We may hope that at least the occasional colloquium will in future look into the new forms of sociability linking the members of our association and their practical implications for the ways in which we communicate with each other and the outside world.
The simple fact of opening up this new channel of communication encourages us to hope that the national histories, which are still very incomplete, will be followed by a series of more detailed histories and studies of an outstanding personality, for example, or a particular issue, such as the creation and the role of the ‘Section libre’, once known as the ‘Free Section’ in English, with its overtones of the Cold War, and subsequently renamed the ‘Open Section’.
Let us not get carried away, however – there still remains plenty more to be done, to realise the wish expressed in 1988 by Bélgica Rodriguez, a former International President, when she appealed to the members: ‘AICA is not the Paris office nor the Executive Committee: it’s the gathering together of all the national sections. It’s a great family, which should work as a team to carry forward our plans and programmes. It’s the activities of the national sections which make up the activities of AICA.’ (vi)
When AICA was first created by UNESCO, within the aura of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this was on condition that it extend its activities to as many countries as possible. Hence, the significance of the two very detailed and impassioned contributions by Ramón Tió Bellido and Katy Deepwell, which go beyond the confines of national histories. Asia has been passed over, although it has occupied such a prominent place in recent congresses. This presents us with the particular challenge of trying to do justice to the colleagues with whom we have such regular dealings in our professional lives. It is a challenge that we shall have to try and meet through writing articles and organising the seminars, colloquia and congresses that are the only common ground on which to measure the true ambitions of those of us who would like to create a discourse around the place of works of art in our culture and offer ideas, as an antidote to those who would place constraints on our freedom of movement and expression.
i. See Histoires de 50 ans de l’association internationale des critiques d’art/ AICA (ed. Ramón Tió Bellido), Paris, aica press, 2002 and AICA in the Age of Globalisation (eds. Henry Meyric Hughes, Ramón Tió Bellido), Paris, aica press, 2010, and the PRISME PROJECT, 2015-2018. The PRISME Project, led by Antje Kramer-Mallordy in partnership with the University of Rennes 2, was devoted to the international history of art criticism since 1945. It enabled the complete digitalisation of the archives of AICA International and of several related holdings of art criticism. The archives relating to AICA’s Congresses and annual General Assemblies from 1948 to 2003, amounting to more than 1,600 documents, are now accessible and can be downloaded from the main on-line archival holdings at: https://www.archivesdelacritiquedart.org/ The final publication relating to the project is scheduled for 2020. For further information about the project, see: https://acaprisme.hypotheses.org/
ii. The Archives of Art Criticism (ACA) bring together AICA, the National Institute of Art History (INHA) and the University of Rennes 2 under a form of governance known in French law by the almost untranslatable term of a ‘Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique’ (GIS).
iii. These archives, however, are held by independent institutions, which are either archives in their own right or parts of national libraries.
iv. In her account of the congress that she organised in Los Angeles, Kim Levin complains of the absence of support from either the Secretariat in Paris or from the US federal agencies.
v. See Katy Deepwell’s text.
vi. Quoted by Lisbeth Bonde.