The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures

The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures, the longest running lecture series at the Institute of Fine Arts, is planned and coordinated by the Graduate Student Association. Art historians, archaeologists and conservators, specializing in a variety of periods and genres are invited to share their latest research with the IFA community and the public. 

The Silberberg lectures are held on selected Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in the Institute's first floor Lecture Hall at 1 East 78th Street. The lectures are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come first-served basis.

2014-2015 Theme: Failure

What defines a failed artwork and how has failure played a critical role in the development of Art History and how can failure be built into our considerations of art?

Traditionally the notion of failure has been associated with the broken, the omitted, the deficient and the unsuccessful. In 1843 Kierkegaard wrote that the “terror of error” is why great acts occasion “fear and trembling.” But some conceptions of failure grant it a more capacious role. In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir writes that “the most optimistic ethics have all begun by emphasizing the element of failure involved in the condition of man; without failure, no ethics.” A few decades after de Beauvoir, Harold Bloom wrote of the “poetic misprision”--the ‘misreading’ of traditional literature that allows the modern poet to protect themselves from the ‘influenza’ of influence. In other words, the failure to read works as they were intended to be read paves the way for innovative forms of writing.

The 2014-2015 Silberberg Lecture Series will address the paradoxical theme of Failure in the study of art history. We will examine the definitions of failure over a broad spectrum, considering the roles of artists, objects, critics and art  historians.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 6:00 PM
James Elkins, ​E.C. Chadbourne Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The End of the Theory of the Gaze
RSVP required

Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 6:00 PM
Carol Armstrong, Professor, History of Art, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Yale University
Lecture Title Forthcoming
RSVP required

Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 6:00 PM
The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures
Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Lecture Title Forthcoming
RSVP required


December 2, 2014
Joshua Shannon, Associate Professor, Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of ​Maryland
Photorealism: A History of Surfaces
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October 21, 2014
Zirwat Chowdhury, Visiting Assistant Professorof Art History and Humanities, Reed College
Architecture between Caricature and Failure

April 22, 2014
Alessandra Russo, Associate Professor, Columbia University
Untranslatable Images?

April 1, 2014
Julia Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Feminist Figuration

March 11, 2014
Eva Hoffman, Assistant Professor, Tufts University
Connections Far and Wide: Translating Art and Culture in the Medieval Mediterranean World (working title)

Thursday, December 5, 2013
Kaja Silverman, Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Professor of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
Unstoppable Development

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Michael Ann Holly, Starr Director Emeritus of the Research and Academic Program, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Painted Silence.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Marie-Helene Girard, Visiting Professor of French, Yale University
"Un autre monde très lointain et très inconnu": British Painters in Paris in 1855

February 12, 2013
Christiane Gruber, Associate Professor of Islamic Art, University of Michigan
Violence's Vestiges: The Martyrs' Museum in Tehran 

April 9, 2013
Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art and Co-Director of the Heritage and Cultural Learning Hub, University of Birmingham (U.K.)
Iconoclasm and Violence in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1795
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May 7, 2013
Robert Hayden, Professor of Anthropology, Law and Public & International Affairs and Director, Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh
Intersecting Religioscapes: A Comparative Approach to Trajectories of Change, Scale, Competition, Sharing and Violence in Religious Spaces
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January 31, 2012
Stanley Abe, Associate Professor of Art History, Duke University
The Modern Moment of Chinese Sculpture

February 28, 2012
Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, Columbia University
The Double: Difference and Repetition in Ancient Art

March 6, 2012
Michelangelo Sabatino, Associate Professor (and History-Theory Coordinator) at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston
PRIDE IN MODESTY: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy

March 27, 2012
Francesco de Angelis, Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Looking for Justice: Space, Images, and Attention in the Forum Augustum in Rome 

April 3, 2012
Michael Leja, Professor of Art History, University of Pennsylvania  
Cubism in Bondage:  Morgan Russell's Synchromism

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