• Founded
  • Seminar Number

Founded by Douglas Fraser, this seminar addresses major issues in the fields of African, Oceanic, Native American, and pre-Hispanic Latin American arts. The seminar provides an opportunity for members to analyze, evaluate, and discuss new and continuing research, as well as various trends in scholarship. Because the membership is comprised of art historians, curators, archeologists, anthropologists, and other field specialists, seminar meetings frequently involve in-depth discussions of theoretical and methodological issues. The seminar sponsors special symposia on diverse topics; the most recent entitled Art as Identity in the Americas.

Zoë Strother

Lisa Trever

Brandon Agosto

Meeting Schedule

11/02/2023 934 Schermerhorn, Columbia University
6:30 PM
Making Pre-Hispanic Art through Letters: Dealer Correspondence and Object Transformations
Megan E. O'Neil, Emory University


Drawing on the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives (Morgan Library and Museum) and the Stendahl Art Galleries Records (Getty Research Institute), this paper addresses letters and other documents exchanged between dealers of pre-Hispanic art in the United States and their sources and clients in the mid-twentieth century regarding pieces they were hoping to acquire or sell, which at times involved smuggling items from source countries. I address these letters as a particular genre of writing in which business and personal relations are intertwined, and in which colonial or other geopolitical power structures come to the fore. I consider in particular the ways they speak about objects, and how the terms change depending on who is the correspondent, what is the reason for the exchange, and where the object is in its physical journey or conceptual transformation, for instance, from archaeological artifact to sellable commodity to museum artwork. As such, I discuss how their exchanges transformed individual pieces and contributed to art historical and museum discourse about pre-Hispanic art that persists today.

12/06/2023 Zoom
6:30 PM
Rereading the Missionary Archive: Dr. George W. Harley In and Out of the African Art Market
Christopher Steiner, Connecticut College


It has been almost 30 years since the publication of my book African Art in Transit, and the release of its accompanying documentary film In and Out of Africa. In this presentation, I will reflect on some of the key points raised in the book and film; situate my research in Côte d'Ivoire during the late 1980s within the broader context of subsequent scholarship on art markets and trade; and discuss how my research in the 1980s influenced some of the more recent archival research I have been engaged in regarding American medical missionary Dr. George W. Harley, and his involvement in the African art market in Liberia during the 1950s and 1960s.