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Expanding Islamic Art Historiography: The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair


November 12, 2021 – November 13, 2021

, University of Vienna, Vienna


To be received by April 18, 2021.

Expanding Islamic Art Historiography: The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair Conference, November 12–13, 2021, University of Vienna

While research on Islamic art became a scholarly field in the twentieth century, it built on studies and perspectives of the nineteenth century. This period saw an intellectual, documentary, artistic, and commercial exploration of ‘Oriental’ art, and this encounter was accompanied by the rise of academic art history and the museum, and of art reform movements and historicist styles.

The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair is a particularly suitable trajectory for expanding Islamic art historiography into this period. It was staged when commercialisation and popularisation, as well as academisation and categorisation of Islamic arts and architecture began to accelerate. Scholarship has recognised the nineteenth-century world’s fairs as a major stage for ‘Oriental’ displays from a global outlook. In Vienna, the organisers promoted the representation of a large number of ‘Oriental’ countries and foregrounded cultural themes, as to distinguish from previous fairs in London and Paris. The Ottoman Empire, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco partook with a large number of national pavilions designed with motifs of Islamic architecture and showcasing crafts, artefacts, and historic objects of Islamic art. Their appreciation and broad reception was on display in orientalising designs of products by the European art industries. Paintings, photographs, commissioned books, and articles in newspapers further contributed to the image of ‘Oriental’ or Islamic art.

This conference aims to look at the Vienna Fair as an intersection of processes and phenomena that contributed to Islamic art historiography. As the sesquicentennial is approaching, the conference will explore the Fair as spaces for exhibiting Islamic arts and architecture, for their commercial and artistic reception, and for setting scholarship in motion. Looking through the lens of the Fair and investigating its making and impact reveals processes that contributed to perceiving and categorising, collecting and studying, institutionalising and commercialising Islamic art, within international, national, and local perspectives. The organisers invite papers ranging from case studies to theory discussions.

Please send an abstract (250 words) and a preliminary title to by April 18, 2021. Abstracts will undergo peer review. Applicants will be notified by 26 May 2021. The conference will take place at the University of Vienna. Papers presented in person are preferred, while online participation is possible. Participants presenting a paper will be offered financial support for travel and accommodation. The organisers intend to publish the conference papers in a volume that meets the sesquicentennial in 2023.

Organisers: Markus Ritter, Dr phil., Professor History of Islamic Art; Sabiha Göloğlu, PhD; Franziska Niemand, MA; Department of Art History, University of Vienna, Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna, Austria.

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