The Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg is the organizer of the 33rd International Congress of Art Historians (CIHA – Congrès International d’Histoire de l’Art) in 2012. The overall theme of the congress is “The Challenge of the Object”. For the first time since 1873, a museum will play host to the world congress. The aim of this congress is to come to terms with the perception and theory of the “object” within art history. With regard to the challenges of globalization and increasing digitalization, this question has gained a completely new volatility, to which the Western history of art has not yet discovered an answer. Particularly museums, whose tasks are the acquisition, preservation, research, and presentation of objects, and which for many represent a central source for accessing the artefact, are predestined to assume a leading role in the discussion.
The focal point of the conference is the notion of the object. On the one hand, we shall investigate material objects and on the other hand, the topic in its broader sense. It is the point of departure and at the same time, the subject of art historical research by which the discipline must prove itself repeatedly, even though like every other scholarly discipline, it constructs its subject matter. The treatment of material objects, be it a building, painting, sculpture, or any other artefact – whether a cult object, a collected piece, or an item of daily use – is a touchstone for art historical research. Objects are thought to exist within their specific materiality, their historical context, and their history, but in the same time they are constructed by diverging academic viewpoints that are central to the conference and its sections.