Past Event

Alessandra Russo - A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400–1600

March 7, 2024
6:15 PM - 7:45 PM
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Online and in-person: Heyman Center (Second Floor Common Room), Columbia University, New York

Event Description

We tend to think of sixteenth-century European artistic theory as separate from the artworks displayed in the non-European sections of museums. Alessandra Russo argues otherwise. Instead of considering the European experience of “New World” artifacts and materials through the lenses of “curiosity” and “exoticism,” Russo asks a different question: What impact have these works had on the way we currently think about—and theorize—the arts? 

Centering her study on a vast corpus of early modern textual and visual sources, Russo contends that the subtlety and inventiveness of the myriad of American, Asian, and African creations that were pillaged, exchanged, and often eventually destroyed in the context of Iberian colonization—including sculpture, painting, metalwork, mosaic, carving, architecture, and masonry—actually challenged and revolutionized sixteenth-century European definitions of what art is and what it means to be human. In this way, artifacts coming from outside Europe between 1400 and 1600 played a definitive role in what are considered distinctively European transformations: the redefinition of the frontier between the “mechanical” and the “liberal” arts and a new conception of the figure of the artist.

Event Speaker

Alessandra Russo, Professor of Latin American and Iberian Culture at Columbia University

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required for in-person and online attendance. For more information, please visit the event webpage or email [email protected]. Please visit the Heyman’s Center website for directions. 

Hosted by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.