In Humanities Day Keynote, Wu Hung Explores the Rehabilitation of Damaged Art

Prof. Wu Hung presented the Keynote Session at Humanities Day 2021.

What would it mean to rehabilitate Buddhist artworks pillaged by art dealers from grottoes in China a century ago? And what can art history as a discipline learn from such efforts? Prof. Wu Hung explored these topics in his Humanities Day keynote address on Oct. 16 at the University of Chicago.

An annual tradition at the University, Humanities Day celebrates the research of UChicago humanities scholars through lectures, discussions and performances that are open to the University community and the public.

Music, Poetry by UChicago Faculty Will Welcome President Alivisatos on Oct. 29

Eight hands and two feet are required for the introduction to "Crescat scientia, vita excolutur," Prof. Augusta Read Thomas's carillon composition for President Paul Alivisatos's inauguration. The final chord requires the combined efforts of 12 carillonneurs, an additional four people not pictured. Photo by Jason Smith

As the ringing of the carillon bells subsides, a voice crackles over the walkie talkie: “That sounded great!”

Prof. Augusta Read Thomas is calling up to the belltower of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, where University Carillonneur Joey Brink and his student assistants—fourth-years Emily Kim, Joseph Min and João Francisco Shida—are seated in a row on the carillonneur’s bench, striking large wooden keys with their fists.

They’re practicing a piece that Thomas has composed for the Oct. 29 inauguration of Paul Alivisatos as the 14th president of the University of Chicago. To be played on the University’s 72-bell carillon—a massive instrument suspended within several stories of the tower’s interior scaffolding—the new music is among the works by UChicago faculty that will help set a celebratory tone for the ceremony.

From the Forbidden City to UChicago, Art Historian Searches for 'a Human Perspective'

Wu Hung shows students details of a sculptural relief. Published in 2020, his award-winning book "First Class" uses 24 of his opening class lectures to illustrate how he structures the study of Chinese art history.

When Prof. Wu Hung lived in the Forbidden City as a young scholar in the 1970s, he felt the constant presence of history. The palatial compound was quiet and empty after visiting hours, and Wu could contemplate its ancient art and architecture.

In the evenings, Wu often spent time in the largest open space within the palaces. Surrounded by the ancient architecture, he could see the vast sky and watch the seasons unfold.

“It was like living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, only these palaces are even more immense and wonderful,” said Wu, a longtime University of Chicago faculty member. “Art was my next-door neighbor. The Forbidden City’s enormous art collections made me want to pursue a career in art history. I sensed a strong continuity in its art and architecture to our time.”

UChicago Film Scholar Jacqueline Stewart Awarded MacArthur Fellowship

Jacqueline Stewart

Prof. Jacqueline Stewart, a leading film scholar known for her work on silent films and African American cinema, has been awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship.

Given each year by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the prestigious grants recognize individuals from across disciplines who “show exceptional creativity in their work.” As a MacArthur Fellow, Stewart will receive a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 over five years to support creative pursuits.

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