Simon Copland | Critical Sociology
This article reconsiders the breakthrough of global approaches to art history within a broader historical, sociological, and institutional context. It also puts into perspective the interdisciplinary openness of global-oriented approaches, and their impact in the discipline. Aiming at historicizing them up to the present, it questions the notion that the origins of global thinking in art history are to be found in the 1980s with the so-called postcolonial turn among art historians, which has become the canonical narrative. Postcolonial awareness emerged very late among art historians, only in the early 2000s. This contrasted, however, with a long-standing interest in non-Western artefacts and visual cultures among certain art historians, who were also interested in global comparisons and transdisciplinary approaches. These scholars borrowed from other fields such as history, anthropology, philosophy, and psychology, but their work was gradually put aside in the process of building art history as a discipline. This article will try to explain why this happened, and will also argue that the globalization of the art market played a greater role than postcolonial theory in encouraging art historians to adopt a globalized approach.