There is a common belief that only things that can be seen, actually happened, as if there is no place for private memory. “To” witness and “a” witness are the key of history. Herodoto and Thucydides began the tradition many years ago. The importance of the trace, and the document have only grown in time: voices, notes, systematizing, catalogues, archives, photos, all resources that evidence that yes, something took place.
I wonder if “History of Art” is something else than this effort to record the traces of the artistic experience and the objects produced during it? Is Art History in this regard an artwork itself? One carefully including pieces, assigning values, classifying, in sum: creating this collective compendium of beauty and the sublime? The artwork named culture?
Our artsy consumption takes place most of the times through secondary resources: through books, media, art stores, image reproduction; through the records we have of it. I am sure I have seen more times Rembrandt’s “ Nightwatch” in clusters than the canvas itself. How many people will actually see Mona Lisa at the Louvre? And for how long would those with the privilege to see her, be in front of the painting? And can they really “see” the painting in the middle of the crowd ? A large majority access her through books and comments, and art historian analyses or google, as I have done with Nefertiti and many other pieces.
A relation between the document and the value, one in which information creates or validates the object is also needed to take under consideration. It is the “I have seen it before in books, but now I am actually contemplating it t ” that increases the excitement when a real approach takes place Yet. this external value faces a slight contradiction: that the aesthetical experience when observing, seems to have a slight private side, one in which chaos and the grotesque or beauty and harmony can be the objects of our affections.