Everyone loves labels. Italian Renaissance, French Baroque, Classical Greek—such little conveniences help us understand and comprehend the often tangled and messy reality of artists and art movements, which, like any living thing, are always more complex and fascinating than any label can express. Cultural Contact and the Making of European Art Since the Age of Exploration, a collection of essays edited by Mary D. Sheriff, chair of the art department of The University of North Carolina, takes on the enduring, monolithic, and inadequate label of “European Art” by questioning what goes into that concept. Rather than completely reject the label, however, Sheriff explains, she and her fellow essayists “aim… to loosen and redraw the boundaries of what has constituted ‘European art’” by focusing on “different contact zones, and in distinguishing different sorts of exchange” between cultures. Sheriff et al. ask us when thinking of European art not to think “locally” but rather to think globally—to recognize just how much the rest of the world contributed to the grand tradition of “European art” that continues to dominate what we consider “fine art.” Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Thinking Globally: Cultural Contact and the Making of European Art."
[Many thanks to The University of North Carolina Press for providing me with a review copy of Cultural Contact and the Making of European Art Since the Age of Exploration, edited by Mary D. Sheriff.]