A symposium at the Getty Research Institute

Iconoclasm raises contentious questions that transcend cultural and temporal boundaries. It can be understood as vandalism, destruction, or a means of repression, all of which fundamentally put culture at risk. However, iconoclasm can also be a form of protest or a vehicle for creative expression. Iconoclasm is transformative, creating entirely new objects or meanings through alterations to existing artworks. Charged with symbolism, these remains testify to a history of reception, offering clues about the life and afterlife of an object. To a certain extent, all radical changes in cultural production can be described as iconoclastic.

This two-day symposium explores the role of iconoclasm and vandalism as a mode and marker of transformation across a broad range of historical and cultural contexts. This diversity of approaches offers the opportunity to expand and refine our understanding of the concepts of iconoclasm and vandalism, as well as the categories of artistic and cultural heritage against which they are defined. These are crucial issues not only within the field of art history but also in some of the most charged cultural conflicts of our present moment.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018


9:00 A.M. WELCOME; Thomas W. Gaehtgens, Getty Research Institute; Alexa Sekyra, Getty Research Institute

9:15 ; A.M. SESSION ONE: Iconoclasm, Aesthetics, Dissent; Moderator: Thomas W. Gaehtgens

"Art and Visual Culture under Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution"; Tatiana Flores, Getty Scholar

"Iconoclasm today: Art, Politics, and Censorship; A Case Study"; Michael Diers, Getty Scholar

"Modernism, Aniconism, and Religion"; Dario Gamboni, Getty Scholar

11:45 A.M. LUNCH

1:15 ; P.M. SESSION TWO: Consecration, Desecration, Institutionalization; Moderator: Gail Feigenbaum, Getty Research Institute

"India, Iran and Empire: The Shansabānīs of Ghūr, c. 1150–1215"; Alka Patel, University of California, Irvine

"Iconoclasms in Africa"; Zoë Strother, Getty Scholar

"The Afterlives of Certain Ancient Bronze and Marble Sculptures, from Antiquity to the Present"; Faya Causey, Getty Scholar


4:00 ; P.M. SESSION THREE: Revival and Erasure; Moderator: Louis Marchesano, Getty Research Institute

"The Art of Evasion: Iconoclasm, Calvinism, and Visual Culture"; Angela Vanhaelen, Getty Scholar

"The (Fatal) Effects of Prudery on Art in France in the XVII and XVIII Centuries: An Episode of the Difficult Relations between Art and Iconoclasm"; Patrick Michel, Getty Scholar


Wednesday, May 2, 2018


9:30 A.M. WELCOME ; Alexa Sekyra, Getty Research Institute

9:35 ; A.M. SESSION FOUR: Sacred Space, Public Memory; Moderator: Alexa Sekyra

"The Bombardment of the Cathedral of Reims in 1914: An Act of Vandalism"; Thomas W. Gaehtgens, Getty Research Institute

"The Enacted Iconoclasm in the Bern Minster and the Change of Social Habits"; Bernd Nicolai, Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Universität Bern, Switzerland

"From Russian Byzantium to the Palace of the Soviets — and back: An Archaeology of Communism"; Karl Schlögel, Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany

12:05 P.M. LUNCH

1:30 ; P.M. SESSION FIVE: Reuse: Iconoclasm, Architecture, Memory; Moderator: Kim Richter, Getty Research Institute

"Violence, Transformation, and Renewal: The Diverse Nature of Ancient Maya Iconoclasm" ; Megan O’Neil, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

"Indigenous Memories of Iconoclasm and Violence in Colonial Mexico"; Lisa Sousa, Getty Scholar


3:30 ; P.M. SESSION SIX: Ethics and Aesthetics in Civic Space; Moderator: Andrew Perchuk, Getty Research Institute

"Lucky Strike: The Conservation of Vandalism"; Christian Scheidemann, Contemporary Conservation Ltd., New York

"Iconoclasm in the Age of Disruption"; Dell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles


SYMPOSIUM DEVELOPMENT AND ORGANIZATION; This symposium was conceptualized by Alexa Sekyra and Edward Sterrett. Logistics and organization were executed by Jennifer de la Fuente, Sharon Kim, Rebecca Man, Sabine Schlosser, and Edward Sterrett. The symposium is presented as part of the Getty Research Institute’s 2017/2018 scholar-year theme "Iconoclasm and Vandalism."