The End of Art and the Promise of Beauty

February 25, 2012 - February 27, 2012
India Habitat Centre

India Habitat Centre
New Delhi


  • ICCR
  • Raza Foundation
  • IHC


Shakti Maira
Sonia Sikka

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The German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel famously claimed that, by the late nineteenth century, art had both fulfilled and exhausted its role in the progressive realization of the human spirit, being superseded by conceptual knowledge.  Accordingly, Hegel predicted that the history of art, and the central role art had played in past ages, was coming to an end, as art would no longer serve any important purpose in the modern world.  The theme of the end of art has since been addressed by a number of philosophers and art critics.  At the same time, in shedding everyday utility, sensory pleasures, and even emotional and spiritual content, art has become narrower and more elite, and its nature has becom increasingly problematized with beauty losing its place in both the definition and practice of art.

Strikingly, however, the discussion around these themes has remained highly Eurocentric, as was Hegel’s original thesis about the end of art, involving little or no informed engagement with the vast array of aesthetic traditions and practices existing outside the Euro-American context.  It has arguably been selective and partial in its analysis of Western aesthetic traditions as well, making some questionable assumptions about the nature and purpose of art, which have then formed the basis for claims and counter-clams about art’s historical trajectory and possible demise.  Taking place in Delhi, India, this international seminar seeks to expand the debate by offering a greater variety of perspectives, arising from multiple traditions and practices, on the possible “ends” – the purposes and destinies – of art, with a focus on the character and value of beauty in relation to art.  Beauty is fundamental to traditional Indian art forms and reflections on aesthetics, where it is often interpreted as a bridge between the sensuous and the spiritual, integrating both within the experience of a transformative joy or Ananda. The seminar especially aims to bring these classical Indian views on the phenomenon of beauty into dialogue with Western counterparts, while keeping an eye on syncretic and integrative ideas for the future.

With this orientation, the seminar will consist of panels and presentations on art and modernity, Indian and Western aesthetic theories, the relation between art and the sacred, and between art and everyday life.   An important subject will be the distinction between art and craft, a distinction the seminar will examine critically through analyses of decorative, functional and tribal arts.  Invitees include not only theorists of art, but also creators, performers, educationists, innovative thinkers, and curators, in order to foster open and accessible conversations between individuals seriously engaged with art and beauty in a variety of ways.

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February 15, 2012, 9:00am IST

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