What do we mean by 'art'? As a category of objects, the concept belongs to a Western cultural tradition, originally European and now increasingly global, but how useful is it for understanding other traditions? To understand art as a universal human value, we need to look at how the concept was constructed in order to reconstruct it through an understanding of the wider world. Western art values have a pervasive influence upon non-Western cultures and upon Western attitudes to them. This innovative yet accessible new text explores the ways theories of art developed as Western knowledge of the world expanded through exploration and trade, conquest, colonisation and research into other cultures, present and past. It considers the issues arising from the historical relationships which brought diverse artistic traditions together under the influence of Western art values, looking at how art has been used by colonisers and colonised in the causes of collecting and commerce, cultural hegemony and autonomous identities.World Art questions conventional Western assumptions of art from an anthropological perspective which allows comparison between cultures. It treats art as a property of artefacts rather than a category of objects, reclaiming the idea of 'world art' from the 'art world'. This book is essential reading for all students on anthropology of art courses as well as students of museum studies and art history, based on a wide range of case studies and supported by learning features such as annotated further reading and chapter opening summaries.
Table of Contents
PrefaceIntroduction: The Art in ArtefactsPart I: Western Perspectives Chapter 1 - The Origins of ArtChapter 2 - Classical ArtChapter 3 - Oriental ArtChapter 4 - Primitive ArtChapter 5 - Prehistoric ArtPart II: Cross-cultural PerspectivesChapter 6 - FormChapter 7 - MeaningChapter 8 - PerformanceChapter 9 - ArchaeologyChapter 10 - The Work of ArtPart III: Artistic Globalisation Chapter 11 - The Art WorldChapter 12 - The Exotic PrimitiveChapter 13 - Marketing Exotic ArtChapter 14 - Artistic ColonialismChapter 15 - The Global and the LocalAfterwordReferencesIndex
Ben Burt has worked for the British Museum for almost forty years, as an anthropologist, educator and curator in what is now the department of Africa, Oceania and Americas. He has published museum educational materials and studies of the culture and history of Solomon Islands, and this book derives from his world art teaching for Birkbeck College, University of London.
"In World Art, Ben Burt provides a sweeping overview of how the concept of art has emerged within an entangled fretwork of material and visual practices, academic disciplines, institutions, and global political processes. By looking at diverse art traditions from all over the world, this volume pushes the reader to consider the ways in which orientalism, primitivism, classicism, anthropology, art history, colonialism, globalization and the market all filter and constitute our understanding of what art is. Perfect for students and anyone interested in understanding the social context of art and in learning more about the diverse art traditions of the planet. - Haidy Geismar, Anthropology and Museum Studies, New York University & Department of Anthropology, University College London … this text offers an important platform from which anthropology can effectively challenge popular and quotidian understandings of art and world art, which continue to imagine material culture through the hierarchical relations that Burt describes so well. The text’s straightforward style and engaging examples offer readers unfamiliar with anthropology a useful critical perspective that they can bring to their experiences of travel, museums, and other cultural displays, and it would certainly be valuable to educators working in these contexts. - Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute - Alanna Cant, University of Oslo, NO"