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Global Art History receives "Social Innovation Grant" to reorient global art research and museum work

Mar 02, 2020

The Professorship of Global Art History at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS), together with five other institutes at renowned universities in Canada, Great Britain and the Netherlands, has now received a “Social Innovation Grant” for the project Worlding Public Cultures: Art and Social Innovation. The project is based on the TrACE research network, committed to the worldwide networking of transnational and transcultural research and teaching in the arts.

The eleven founding members of the network “Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Culture Exchange – TrACE” include Monica Juneja and Franziska Koch from the Professorship of Global Art History. For their project they have been granted almost 600.000 EUR for three years. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will finance the German section of this joint project with approximately 315.000 EUR (funding number 01UG2026). The funding will allow the ambitious network “Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Culture Exchange – TrACE” to expand its initial cooperation with renowned museums such as the Tate Modern London, the Tropenmuseum: Museum of World Cultures Amsterdam, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ici) Berlin. In exchange with like-minded curators and artists, the researchers aim to translate critical, transcultural approaches to art historical research, systematically developed at the HCTS, into exhibition practice. Together, they seek new answers to the complex challenges of globalization in the arts. Thus, the 1st TrACE Academy in Ottawa in November, which was organized by the project team of Carleton University together with the National Gallery of Canada, explored the topic “Worlding the Global: The Arts in the Age of Decolonization.”

Only 10 out of 75 teams from the humanities succeeded in obtaining the “Social Innovation Grant” for such a project. The interdisciplinary team of TrACE founders, Monica Juneja and Franziska Koch (HCTS, University of Heidelberg), Birgit Hopfener, Ming Tiampo, Ruth Phillips and Carmen Robertson (CTCA, Carleton University, Ottawa), Alice Ming Wai Jim (Concordia University, Montréal), Paul Goodwin and Toshio Watanabe (TrAIN, The University of the Arts London), recently joined by Chiara de Cesari (Universiteit van Amsterdam) and Wayne Modest (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), are excited and hopeful about the potential of their project. Its success in receiving funding points to an increased interest in the role of art and culture, while addressing the challenges of global capitalism and growing tendencies of re-nationalization worldwide. “With TrACE and the new project Worlding Public Cultures, our aim is to counter the overused and slippery concept of the global with the world-making potential of the arts. Art production and artists offer a valuable entry point into the complex social realities of our times. They bring forth fresh arguments, making us aware of different positionalities from which we make sense of and intervene to reclaim the world. Engaging with art is vital to grasping historical connectivities, together with the distinct ways in which institutions define and shape culture. Studying and exhibiting art is a creative mode of negotiating conflict and different worldviews,” explains Monica Juneja, who holds the first and till date only Professorship of Global Art History in the German-speaking world.

The Heidelberg team can build on years of productive experience in collaborating with museums. Since its foundation, the Professorship of Global Art History has been engaged in joint activities with museums in Germany with a view to generating an awareness of interwoven, often conflicting art histories, among broad sections of visitors, many of whom may have never entered a university. The Social Innovation Grant allows Monica Juneja and Franziska Koch, supported by a doctoral student and a postdoctoral researcher, to apply this expertise on an international level. Joint projects with the Tate Modern London and the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam, institutions that have addressed problematic issues of colonialism and the legacy of empire much earlier than museums elsewhere, will in turn stimulate their collaborative work at home.

“With Worlding Public Cultures we have a transatlantic project that for the first time allows a systematic collection and comparison of data in two core areas of the arts from a global perspective: on the one hand, new approaches to art in university teaching and, on the other, innovative curatorial practices that position themselves transculturally or transnationally,” explains Franziska Koch, co-leader of the German team. Announcing the next three TrACE Academies to take place in Amsterdam in autumn 2020, in London 2021 and in Berlin/Heidelberg in 2022, she emphasizes: “Together with curators, artists and cultural activists from countries of the so-called ‘global south’, we will work out concrete recommendations for both areas. Worlding Public Cultures will not only result in a series of academic publications. An equally important milestone is the publication of these insights in a condensed form with two ‘Best Practices Papers’ on our website. These will make our insights into transcultural art research and associated curatorial practices easily accessible to an interested public and therefore socially effective.”

The TrACE network is currently working on its institutional expansion. The next academies will initiate cooperation with institutes in China, Japan, India, and the USA, without which, according to the founders of TrACE, a transcultural agenda would be of limited scope. It will therefore be interesting to see to what extent Worlding Public Cultures: Art and Social Innovation will bring about a transcultural change in the increasingly globalized art and culture sector over the next three years.


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  • Members of the TrACE consortium at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding in Ottawa, November 2019

  • TrACE founding member Franziska Koch signing the Memorandum of Understanding

  • The president of Carleton University, Benoit-Antoine Bacon (3rd from left), congratulates Franziska Koch on signing the Memorandum of Understanding