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Humanitas Visiting Professorship in the History of Art

Philippe de Montebello

Humanitas Visiting Professorship in the History of Art

15 - 22 November 2012
University of Cambridge

Professor Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Fiske Kimball Professor, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, served as Humanitas Visiting Professor in the History of Art 2012-2013. 


Professor de Montebello delivered three lectures during his tenure as Humanitas Visiting Professor in the History of Art 2012-2013. Drawing on an impressive amount of professional experience and personal insight, Philippe de Montebello explored a wide range of approaches to the history of art, touching on the social and philosophical as well as the cultural and political. His three lectures developed on the theme ‘The Multiple Lives of the Work of Art’, a phrase de Montebello coined to highlight that no work of art appears to modern audiences as it was originally conceived. De Montebello’s lectures explored how works of art change and evolve as humans view, experience, and alter them in different ways over time.

His series began with a lecture on ‘The Many Faces of Context’, which introduced the audience to the notion of re-contextualisation as a form of appropriation. His second lecture, ‘Destruction, Alteration, and Renewal’, explored how iconoclasm, vandalism, and restorations affect the work of art and the viewer. In his final lecture, ‘Change as Constant’, de Montebello spoke about how intrinsic and extrinsic factors account for the transformations in works of art over time.

Philippe de Montebello’s tenure was concluded by a symposium which brought together art historians from across the U.K. Astrid Swenson, Elizabeth Prettejohn, Jean Michel Massing, Iain Fenlon, Bronwen Wilson, and Deborah Howard discussed and reflected on the themes brought up in de Montebello’s lectures. 

Philippe de Montebello retired at the end of 2008 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after serving for 32 years as its longest tenured director. He is its first Director Emeritus. In 2009 Mr. de Montebello became the first scholar in residence at the Prado Museum in Madrid and was recently named to the Board of Trustees of the Musée d'Orsay. He is Special Advisor for the visual arts at NYU's Abu Dhabi Campus. He holds Honorary degrees from NYU, Harvard University and Dartmouth College.

For more information on Professor Philippe de Montebello's series, click here. To view the flyer for the series, click here.

Professor de Montebello's three lectures can be seen on the ISD's YouTube Channel.

The Humanitas Chair in the History of Art has been made possible by the generous support of J E Safra.

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