About the center

Center for Practice-based Art Studies is dedicated to exploring and valorizing the mechanisms for knowledge-production at work in the ecologies of the art world across the entire range of its institutions, practices, disciplines, and its life in society at large.

Torgny Wilcke, Element Linseed oil, colour pigment, textile, wood, steel wire.

Art studies in Denmark have profited from a rapid growth in early-stage researchers affiliated to universities, museums, and art schools (with more than 30 new PhD-positions and a similar number of postdocs from the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the New Carlsberg Foundation), which has led to an upsurge in new research questions, topics, theories, and methods.

Based on this new capacity, the center will build a comprehensive study program for early-stage researchers and a research hub convening early-stage researchers and practitioners and professionals in the field. The center will provide a crucial supplement to extant graduate programs in art history, curating and museum studies, and artistic research, and offer a platform for exchange between these fields and for the promotion of emerging research agendas.

The research training activities address PhDs, postdocs, and alumni from the social and institutional frameworks of the artworld, including archives, museums, exhibition making, and the array of discursive practices in and around the art world. The center will be independent from the existing degree awarding programs at Danish Universities, and the training is offered as an interdisciplinary complement to the required coursework for doctoral students who will be enrolled and supervised at their home institutions.

The activities of the center will promote a novel scientific design aimed at consolidating the modalities of knowledge at work in the art world. This design presupposes a shift of focus, away from the artwork as an object to be construed analytically, theoretically, and historically, and toward understanding and affording the actual practices and relations in play in the societal existence of art.

Main objectives of the center

  • to aggregate and validate the knowledges that inform the ramified life of art in society and develop the capacities of applied, curatorial, and artistic practice-based research
  • to systematically include insights that stem from the field of practice-related knowledge production in the training of early-stage researchers in art studies and provide doctoral students with a better understanding of (and access to) the practices of the art world
  • to facilitate new partnerships and collaborations across the field and provide a dedicated platform for communication.

The goal for the first funding period from 2023 through 2028 is to create

  • an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented research training program
  • a national hub for practice-based art studies offering a sustainable infrastructure for cross-sectorial and inter-institutional collaboration
  • a showcase for the societal role and functions of art. 

Background and purpose

Traditionally, research in art history was conducted either in university departments or in museums, guided, respectively, by historical and theoretical questions addressed to an academic audience of peers, and by questions pertaining to specific collections, addressed to a broader public. In recent decades, many attempts have been made to bridge this gap and to forge new relations between university and museum, between dissertation and exhibition, and between theory and archive. In addition, the steep increase in artistic practice-based research projects has instigated new methodologies and research agendas thereby extending the trans-sectorial dialogue between academic, collection-based, artistic, and curatorial or exhibition-led research.

The center will tap into this trend and strive to achieve a significant increase in interfaces and exchanges between academic research and practice-based research and innovation strategies originating from other contexts and modes of agency than the academic. By bringing these strands together the center will contribute to bridge academic and extra-academic research and knowledge production, thereby stimulating professional dialogue, debate, and new research in the field.

A number of graduate, advanced studies, and continuing education programs focusing on practice-based knowledge production within the broad field of art history and artistic research have emerged over the last decades. Several of these are relevant for future partnerships and for benchmarking the centre’s profile and program. Just to mention a few: Museologisk forskningsprogram at Aarhus University; Stockholm University of the Arts; Norwegian Artistic Research Programme (Trondheim, Bergen and Oslo); European Forum for Advanced Practices; Post-Graduate Programme in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts (ZHdK); De Appel, Amsterdam; Advanced Studies in Art History, Universitat de Barcelona; Whitney Independent Study Program, NY; Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard, NY.

Taking inspiration from such programs, the center will provide research training for early-stage researchers and offer comprehensive insight in practical competencies as well as exposing research to an array of operational fields and institutional practices (exhibitions, dissemination strategies, artistic interventions, museums, &c) outside of the university. At the same time, the center will concertedly stimulate and support new research agendas and research formats that emerge from a new generation of early-stage researchers and their engagement in different contexts of practice.

By encompassing the different practices that contribute to the production of new knowledge in the art field, the center is also ideally positioned to offer activities for continuing education and research dissemination aimed at researchers and academic staff at museums, libraries, and archives, as well as for curators, artists, and professionals writing about art. Such activities will undergird the relations between academic and practice-based knowledge production and further support the dialogue between the fields.

With approximately a dozen new PhD and postdoc positions awarded each year in art studies, the activities cater to a population of 30+ early-stage researchers at different phases of their work. The center will offer an opportunity to apply research results and research methodologies to fields and practices outside of the university and thus to relate more profoundly to institutions and practices dedicated to the collection, conservation, and dissemination of art, to exploit the uses of art, and to make inquiries through and by way of art. Concomitantly, the center will provide academic research with a stronger foothold in collection- and conservation-based insights, as well as in the multiple practices promoting equity, accessibility, diversity, and representation that have made the most forward-looking museums, art spaces, independent galleries and publishers, online-forums and curatorial collectives into models for socially sustainable production and circulation of humanities-based knowledge and research.

Combining research, research training, continuing education, and outreach activities on a two-pronged basis of academic-critical and practical-collaborative research activities, the center will provide a solid added value to the entire field of art studies. It aims at fostering a more sustainable infrastructure for the interaction between the art world and its social surroundings and hence eventually secure a better valorization of art in the sphere of the social.


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