Is A Theory of Art History Possible?


How Is Art History Made? is an open-ended critical research project organized by the Stichting Egress Foundation, Amsterdam, in association with the Kunsthalle Basel.


The project was launched in Basel during the Basel Art Fair in June 2011 with a city-wide distribution of a multi-language poster in Basel, a press conference at the Kunsthalle Basel, and discussion held as part of of the "Art Salon" talk series with the participation of Seth Siegelaub, Adam Szymczyk (Director of Kunsthalle Basel), and Monika Szewczyk (Writer and curator; head of publications at Witte de With, Rotterdam). Gratis copies of the poster are available in the entrance lobby of the Kunsthalle Basel.


The purpose of the project is to attempt to develop an understanding of the mechanisms behind the determination of quality in art, especially during the 20th and 21th centuries, but also in the earlier historical periods. Although almost everyone involved in the world of art has wondered privately from time-to-time about the question, "Why is artist X considered more important than artist Y?", it continues to remain a hidden obscure subject, often taken for granted, and is hardly ever addressed in a public forum.


With this project it is our intention to try to provoke an open discussion by publicly raising the question of power in the art world and the accumulation of artistic capital by harvesting the opinions from different participants in the art community, initially via feedback through this website (see below) to bring together a range of thoughts dealing with this issue which could eventually lead to a synthesis of ideas and perhaps a formal theory or, at least, a working hypothesis. In the near future we will begin to publish here a more structured series of hypotheses dealing with these questions.



For a 46' video of the Art Salon talk on "How Is Art History Made?" held at the Basel Art Fair on 19 June 2011 with Seth Siegelaub, Monika Szewczyk (writer and curator, Rotterdam), and Adam Szymczyk (Director, Kunsthalle Basel) click here


To contribute your thoughts to this discussion please leave a comment below or email us directly at: HowIsArtHistoryMade? To receive free updates and follow the comments on this project just check the Notify me of follow-up comments box or click the Feed Entries button on the bottom left.



[Credits: Thanks very much to Adam Szymczyk, the Director of the Kunsthalle Basel, Aline Rinderer (Curatorial Assistant) and Annette Amberg (Assistant Curator) for their help and cooperation in the realization of this project. Many thanks also to Nadine Rinderer (poster design), and Javier Anguera, Marja Bloem, Sandra De Cecco, Roos Gortzak, Anka van der Meer and Laurent Sauerwein for their translation work.]


To receive free information and updates about this project and related art projects just click on Register at the top of this page and fill out the form (check "Contemporary Art") with your name and email address. Or you can send us an email at