PHOTO: © Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Welt-Kunst 1923. Von der Umwertung der deutschsprachigen Kunstgeschichte

Exhibition Kunstgeschichte Weltkunst
In the organizer's words:

'World art' had its first high point exactly 100 years ago. In the crisis year of 1923, a book by Oskar Beyer was published in Germany that included the term "world art" in its title for the first time. At the same time, this year saw an astonishing number of publications calling for a new, global and anthropological perspective for art history beyond the canon propagated by Winckelmann and Goethe - or demonstrating what such a historiography of art should achieve. Finally, in 1923, Aby Warburg gave his later famous lecture in the Kreuzlingen sanatorium, published under the title "Snake Ritual", which also pursued a comparative approach to culture and images.

The exhibition presents various traditions of thought, discussions and publications on this global view of art up to 1923. It becomes clear that 'world art' could not be understood as a mere extension of the subject, but rather as a new central problem of the discipline, especially in the German-speaking world: A genuine science of art could then only be realized if the artistic expressions of all times and peoples were included.

For today's reflections on the possibilities of a 'global' or transcultural art history/image science and for the post-colonial examination of collecting and systematizing 'ethnological' artefacts, the criticisms and drafts of a new art history at that time already provide important starting points. The seven sections of the exhibition, each with seven exhibits, are always based on a book from 1923. Grouped around these 'key works' are earlier texts that (intellectually) prepared them. Each section is dedicated to different publication contexts and argumentation contexts in which 'world art' was negotiated: from overview works on the art of all times and peoples to 'global' book series and popular picture collections to discussions on the methodological challenges of a new, comprehensive art history. The concluding seventh section reminds us that a global perspective has of course also become increasingly important in the art historiography of other countries, albeit with its own interests and objectives.

Accompanying QR codes in the exhibition lead to complete digital copies of the individual books, allowing visitors to study the works beyond the selection on display. The publications can also be accessed on site at a media station.

A list of the exhibits on display with access to the respective online version (open access) can be found at:

This content has been machine translated.


Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte Katharina-von-Bora-Straße 10 80333 München