A quoi sert l’histoire de l’art ?
Roland Recht, conversations avec Claire Barbillon
Lampoons can be greatly stimulating if they do not limit themselves to settling scores. It is the case of this dialogue between a well-known "mandarin" (he would not like the use of this word), Roland Recht, a professor at the Collège de France and a member of the Institute, and the current director of studies at the Ecole du Louvre. The conclusion is rather pessimistic, which makes it all the more interesting: given the disastrous absence of courses in art history at school or high school in France (contrary to other countries such as Italy), our eye is not educated. The selected university professors and curators, rather than act as a united group, just glare at one another. Curators are replaced by conservation attachés, less well trained but also less paid, therefore more profitable. In the meantime the cultural scene looks more like a circus: the number of national patrimony sites does not stop growing and takes up the public budgets, trying to survive through pitiful "events". Major museums search marketing operations to attract the media while remaining oblivious to the need of having their works of art travel to the province. That leaves all of us, the public at large, lost in the middle of the arena, less keen on opening our eyes to art manifestations than to repeat the same non-sense about the limited number of works of art. And we cannot even seek consolation in the autosuggestion method, since from all points of view, tomorrow will not be a better day...
• A quoi sert l’histoire de l’art ?(What is the use of art history?) by Roland Recht, conversations with Claire Barbillon, Textuel, 2006, ISBN : 2-84597-194-X, 112 p., 17 €
Review published in the newsletter #16 - from 28 September 2006 to 4 October 2006