On Thursday 10 March at 6pm, New York University’s Professor Alexander Nagel will give a public lecture on the Renaissance art which he sees as being characterised by its extraordinary openness to the world. It is difficult, argues Nagel, to think of another tradition of art more focused on depicting ‘elsewheres’. The lecture will be held at the University of Sydney and is co-presented with Sydney Ideas.



Italian art in the period between ca. 1300 and ca. 1500—what is called the Renaissance—is characterised by its extraordinary openness to the world. The Renaissance represented items and ideas not only in direct proximity to artists of the time, but also distant peoples and places known to artists only through textual accounts, oral reports, drawings, imported objects and other images. Western Christian art was oriented elsewhere due to its unique position at a distinct remove from the origins of its religion, and far to the west of the centres of culture as Latin Christians understood it. It is difficult to think of another tradition of art more focused on depicting ‘elsewheres’.

Renaissance art was an art of naturalism, but it was also an art that relied to an unprecedented degree on data coming through other media. The media-intensive nature of the art is critical to understanding the spectacular and improbable rise of painting in this period from a subordinate to a superintendent artform. Painting was vaulted to a new status because it was the medium most capable of taking in information from other media, and representing those other media (textiles, furnishings, books, metalware, ceramics, sculptures, buildings, etc.).



Professor Alexander Nagel is interested in how art is classified and reclassified over time, both through its practical handling and its theorisation. Anachronism, antiquarianism, archaism, citation, and forgery have been consistently the focus of his work. More recently, his work has turned to the question of orientation in Renaissance art. How do artworks serve as a means by which to orient oneself in the world? To try to answer this question for the art of the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance in the West is to open oneself to a world in which Europe was not at the center, but rather looking eastward for its values, image traditions and sacred geography, as well as its mythical origins. He is author of Michelangelo and the Reform of Art (2000), Anachronic Renaissance (2010) co-authored with Christopher Wood, The Controversy of Renaissance Art (2011), and Medieval Modern: Art out of Time (2012).

Professor Nagel will also run a seminar at the University of Sydney on Friday 11 March, 1.30–5pm. For more information, see this page.



This is a free public lecture with online registration essential. For venue information and to register your attendance, please click here.



Professor Nagel’s lecture is co-presented by Sydney Ideas.