Quatremère de Quincy’s Moral Considerations on the Place and Purpose of Works of Art: Introduction and Translation [Book Review]

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 80 (4):520-523 (2022)
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In 2006, David Carrier (Carrier, 2006, Museum Skepticism: A History of the Display of Art in Public Galleries. Durham: Duke University Press.) coined the term ‘museum skepticism’ to describe the idea that moving artworks into museum settings strips them of essential facets of their meaning; among art historians, this is better known as ‘decontextualization’, ‘denaturing’, or ‘museumization’. Although they do not usually name it directly, many contemporary debates in the philosophy of art are informed by an inclination towards museum skepticism, from work on aesthetic cognitivism (Feagin, Susan, 1995, “Paintings and their places” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73.2: 260-8.) and contextualism (Danto, Arthur C., 1988, “Artifact and Art”, in ART/ARTIFACT: African Art in Anthropological Collections. Exhibition Catalogue. New York: Center for African Art and Prestel Verlag, 18-32.) to cultural appropriation (Eaton, A. W. and Gaskell, Ivan, 2009, “Do subaltern artifacts belong in art museums?,” The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, ed. James O. Young and Conrad Brunk, Oxford and Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 235-67), street art (Baldini, Andrea, 2016, “Street Art: A Reply to Riggle” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74.2: 187-91), and the value of authenticity (Korsmeyer, Carolyn, 2016, “Real Old Things” British Journal of Aesthetics, 56.3: 219-31). The very first museum skeptic, however, was Antoine Chrysostôme Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1849).

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Michel-Antoine Xhignesse
Capilano University

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