The Role of the Vienna School in Shaping Central European Approaches to Art History and Related Discourses
IV. From the Ideological Critique to the Apologia for the Market
It is well known that art history as an academic discipline was established in the second third of the 19th century: the first permanent chair of art history being established at Berlin University in 1844 (Waagen), at Vienna University in 1852 (Eitelberger), and at Bonn in 1860 (Springer), followed by chairs in Strasbourg, Leipzig, Prague.1 The institutionalisation of art history in 19th century Germany was launched by a new state ideology – nationalism. University chairs of art history followed the creation of those temples of the new nationalist religion – the public art museums. Art was regarded as an expression of the spirit of a nation and the work of art, as a visualisation of an impersonal spiritual message. As a result, the main task of institutionalised art history was to develop experts for public (state) museums and to reconstruct and promote national historical myths.
Nevertheless, the situation changed significantly in the second half of the 19th century. As international economic competition came into the foreground, romantic nationalism had to be replaced by pragmatic liberalism. This also had serious consequences for art history. The first universal exhibition, the “Great Exhibition” in London of 1851, conceived of as a symbolic international competition, launched a wave of art & industry museums all over the Europe. Art began to be regarded as an efficient means of industrial competition. As a consequence, the study of the history of art was also introduced to polytechnics and academies of fine art....
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