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Feb. 2, 2011

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Listen up, all you artists and art-historians! The College Art Association’s 99th Annual Conference gets under way Feb. 8-12, 2011, at the glorious Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan (up the road from the three monumental Jim Dine bronzes of the Venus de Milo). Thousands of art historians and artists from around the country descend on the event for a series of intellectual panel discussions the likes of which the world has hardly seen (more details below). And it’s not cheap: tickets to the whole megilla are $400, though entry to a single session (which may boast a half-dozen panels) is $45.

For those who can’t afford the freight, the conference also offers some free sessions, including one titled "Against Acknowledgement: Sexuality and the Instrumentalization of Knowledge," led by Jonathan Katz (SUNY Buffalo), co-curator of the groundbreaking, controversial "Hide/Seek" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  

Other free "Centennial" sessions include "Feminism," which offers several illustrious panelists, including Carolyn Christov-Barkargiev, the curator of Documenta 13, and one on "Globalization" chaired by School of the Art Institute of Chicago star faculty-member James Elkins.

This year’s edition kicks off with an evening reception in the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur at 7:30 pm on Feb. 10, featuring introductory remarks by Met director Thomas Campbell. Tickets are $35.

The CAA conference is also known for its "meat market" -- a job fair where hungry art grads try to win a position in academe. Open to members only, the "career services" sector boasts exclusive listings for professorships and residencies, individual mentoring sessions, portfolio reviews and a number of career-oriented workshops that sell out fast. Despite widespread cutbacks in higher education, the ever-optimistic CAA is hoping for something of a bounce back this year, according to CAA staffer Sara Hines.

For the working scholar, the CAA "program sessions" are the real draw, featuring an overwhelming roster of approximately 200 discussion panels, two-and-a-half-hours each, with presentations -- more often "papers" than mere ad-libs -- from artists, writers and a range of art historians. CAA even has a Queer Caucus, a Women’s Caucus for Art and a Radical Art Caucus.

The list of panels seems endless, and the topics of discussion are as varied as can be, from "Cel-Culture: The Hybrid Intersections of Art, Video Games and Manga" to "Rococo, Late-Rococo, Post-Rococo: Art, Theory, and Historiography" (this last chaired by the estimable Frick Collection curator Colin Bailey).

Herewith, a few samples, in no particular order, to whet the appetite; for a complete rundown, click here:

* Prophet/Profit: The Famous Case of Damien Hirst, chaired by Sarah Thornton, a journalist who contributes to both the Economist and Artforum, touches on several subjects: "The Consumerism of Damien Hirst’s Spot Paintings" (Ulrich Blanche, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg); "Marketing Thanatos" (Debora Silverman, U. Cal L.A.); and "Rebel, Incorporated" (Martha Buskirk, Montserrat College). The discussant is Thomas Crow, the legendary expert on painters and modern life in 18th-century Paris.

* Capitalist Art about Capitalism: From Jasper Johns's Ballantine Ale (1960) to Jeff Koons's New Shelton Wet-Dry Double Decker (1981) is organized by Artnet Magazine columnist Donald Kuspit, and promises seven papers mixing Freud and Marx, e.g.: "Smithson’s Critique of Duchamp: The Traffic in Alienated Labor" (David Craven, U. of New Mexico); "Carl Andre and the Commodity Form" (Alistair Rider, U. of Saint Andrews); "No Shit: Thoughts on Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca" (Isabell Loring Wallace, U. of Georgia); and "Richard Hamilton’s ‘Healthy Vigor’: Thanatopic Tumescence as Erotic Detumescence" (Brian Winkenweder, Linfield College).

* The Artist-Critic: The Critic-Artist, presented by the International Association of Art Critics, is chaired by Richard Kalina (Fordham University) and features Robert Berlind, Christopher French, Mira Schor, Ann Thompson, Trevor Winkfield and Alexi Worth (none of whom write for this website, as it happens).

* The Art of Pranks presents papers on New York Dada, "Wroclaw ’70," Fluxus and more, with Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men enlisted as discussant (he teaches at Parsons the New School).

* Abstract Painting at 100, one of the CAA’s "Studio Art" sessions, is organized by painter Carrie Moyer (RISD) and seems to be largely a female affair, including Linda Besemer (Occidental College), Louise Fishman, Shirley Kaneda (Pratt), Suzanne McClelland (Pratt), Wendy White (Rutgers) and art critic and curator Faye Hirsch.

* Narcissism, a panel presented by the Queer Caucus for Art, includes papers on Claude Cahun, Yayoi Kusama, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Greer Lankton, and "Shame-Flushed Flaming: Narcissism and the Queer Potentials of Photography" (Jill Casid, U. of Wisconsin).  

* Lawrence Alloway, Visual Culture and Contemporary Practice promises a discussion of the New York-based English art critic who is often credited with coining the term "Pop Art." Participants include Irving Sandler, Richard Kalina and Linda Nochlin

* Art Historical Field Notes: The Experience of "The Site" features presentations from Anna Chave (Queens College, CUNY) on "Getting (to) Marfa: An Encounter with Judd’s Mill-Aluminum Works" and Caroline A. Jones (MIT) on "Art History, Tourism, Experience and Event."

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