June 15, 2018
I write following a stimulating and productive HNA Conference in Ghent. It was a joy to reconnect with so many friends and colleagues, and to meet many people I had not yet had the pleasure to know personally. We had over 240 attendees to the conference, and it was inspiring that so many were young scholars. This speaks to the vibrant fields of scholarship with which we are engaged.
In my opening remarks to the conference, I included many updates on HNA activities, so I thought it would be nice to post in full the text of that welcome, combined with a portion of the remarks made by Max Martens to thank the conference organizers who made it such a success.
In addition to those remarks, however, I would like to add one more item of news. You’ll see below that at our February board meeting, Larry Silver was unanimously voted as an HNA Honorary Member. I also thank Kristin Belkin and Fiona Healy for their tremendous service to the organization over the course of many decades. At the conference banquet, a motion was put forward to also name Kristin and Fiona as Honorary Members, and it was roundly applauded! We will formalize that motion at our next board meeting, but consider it done!
With best wishes,
On behalf of the board and officers of Historians of Netherlandish Art and the program committee of this year’s conference, I am pleased to welcome you and to formally open our proceedings. I’m Paul Crenshaw, current HNA President, and I’ll try to keep my remarks brief, but I have many people to thank, and a few general remarks to make about the construction of community. Egbert Haverkamp Begemann used to say that the best part of conferences is what happens in between the talks, the exchange of ideas and the building of personal relationships. Just as artworks actively create culture, so do organizations. That is our major aim with HNA, and with these conferences—to strengthen our community in order to move scholarship forward.
This is the ninth HNA conference. They have always been a showcase for the state of our fields, and I think it is fair to say that the study of Netherlandish art remains at the forefront of art history in numerous respects, ranging from traditional strengths in iconology, biography and connoisseurship to newer approaches to meaning and significance that embrace varied economic strata and differences in gender; social network analysis; globalization and its concomitant questions of curiosity, hybridity and identity formation; and technical art history that engages with an expansive range of media and materials with new scientific directions and questions. The first HNA conference was held in 1985, and following the 1998 conference we have been alternating being European and American venues. Because the conferences have been so vibrant, and each time people express the opinion that we should do this more frequently, we will move to a new cycle of three-year intervals going forward. We expect to continue the practice of alternating between American and European venues, but with the nature of our field changing to include more global perspectives, we also leave open the possibility of holding future conferences in yet other parts of the world. We have just announced a new formal process for proposing and deciding upon future conference venues, with a call for proposals for conferences in 2021 and 2024. The deadline for proposals is July 1.
As you probably know we rebranded and restructured our web presence in the past year and now have three related websites, for HNA, our journal JHNA, and our Review of Books (now called HNAR). We have gotten many favorable reviews of the websites, and there will be some more smaller tweaks yet to come. The HNA site has valuable scholarly resources still behind our membership portal, so if you haven’t explored it yet, please do. We have incredible bibliographies, the most recent ones compiled by Judith Noorman and a discussion forum that we would like to see more people use. If you have any problems logging in, don’t hesitate to write to me or our administrator and webmaster, Caro Fowler.
The website has been successful already in reaching new audiences and expanding our connections around the world. We have over a hundred new members since the website launched last fall, from all over the world. We’ve also captured some unexpected audiences on the internet. The Google analytics allow us to see how people arrive at our website, and exactly which pages they visit most frequently. Shortly after we launched the website, we had a visitor read an article on JHNA about Gerrit von Honthorst. Curiously, though, this reader had reached the article after doing a Google search for “Amsterdam street walkers.” The Honthorst article, by Lotte C. Van der Pol, is about the imagery of 17th-century Dutch prostitution. Most interestingly, this reader didn’t just take a peek; he or she spent ten minutes reading the article, or just looked at the pictures.
Anyway, as I was saying, one of our aims with the new website is to reach new audiences, and to make more of our scholarly resources fully open access. To that end, on HNAR there are now more than 600 book and exhibition reviews fully open access now, dating back nearly twenty years. We are constantly looking for reviewers, and writing book reviews is a great opportunity for younger scholars to engage with our field. My daughter, who is a university student, was helping me import material from the old to the new website last summer. At one point she remarked, “Who is this Larry Silver? He writes a lot of reviews!” Larry, by the way, I’m pleased to announce, has been named our twelfth Honorary Member for his contributions to HNA. (Larry unfortunately could not make it to the conference this year due to other obligations.) Kristin Belkin continues in her role as managing editor of the HNAR, even though she has passed on the mantle of administrator to Caro after many years of service. I would like to take a minute to thank Kristin in a special way. This organization would not be what it is without her attention to detail, concern for everyone in the organization, and constant dedication over the past several decades. She has been the face of our organization, and its binding force.
Our inspiration for moving toward open access with the HNA side of the website has been the organization’s journal, JHNA. This year marks the tenth anniversary of JHNA. When it began, it was one of the first, if not the first, peer-reviewed, online-only journals for art history. The first issue in 2009 was dedicated to Carol Purtle. In the beginning, its appearance and capability were meant to mimic the expectations—and to be honest, the sense of respectability—of a print journal. With the new design, we hope to take full advantage of what a digital medium can accommodate and even to stimulate new forms of scholarship. Our JHNA Editor-in-Chief, Alison Kettering, and managing editor, Heidi Eyestone, have been instrumental in their vision and diligent efforts to keep JHNA at the forefront of publications in our field.
I would also like to say a few words about HNA leadership and directions. First I want to recognize Stephanie Dickey, whose service to the organization culminated in 2017 after two terms on the board, Vice-President, President and Past-President—that is a formal position for us, yes, another four years after being president. Amy Golahny is now providing that vital leadership and continuity role. She has forged fruitful and generous relationships with the cultural attachés from the Netherlands and the Government of Flanders. Our vice-president, Louisa Wood Ruby, and I are very interested in expanding our digital resourcces and using HNA as a hub for access to disparate professional efforts around the globe. Over the last several years we have moved the organization to better professional practices and to broader engagement with sister organizations in our profession.
Fiona Healy has been for many, many years our European treasurer and liaison. Like Kristin, she has been invaluable in her institutional memory, guidance and advice, and consistent dedication to the organization. She will be stepping down from that role after this conference. Because this connection to Europe is so important, at our February meeting the board decided to appoint two European liaisons from this point forward. Yes, Fiona, we need two people to replace you. I’m pleased to announce that Jan Blanc and Angela Jager have been appointed to those roles. We want to have a more consistent presence in Europe and hope to plan multiple smaller events in the future.
And now we move to the “thank-yous” for this year’s conference.
Max Maartens and Koen Jonckheere have served as chairs of the program committee, and have been instrumental in securing venues with Ghent University, Groeningemuseum Bruges, St. John’s Hospital Bruges, and Het Grootseminarie Bruges. (Max and Koen) The members of the program committee formulate and shape the direction of the conference based on the proposals that came in. These committee members were Katlijne Van der Stighelen, Koenraad Brosens, Krista De Jonge, Till-Holger Borchert, Manfred Sellink, Ralph Dekoninck, Hugo Van der Velden, Frits Scholten, Elmer Kolfin, Jürgen Müller, Sophie Raux, Susie Nash, and on behalf of the HNA-Board: Fiona Healy, Ron Spronk, Amy Golahny and myself.
We are thankful to Marc Boone, Jan Dumolyn, Mathijs Speecke and Noël Geirnaert for offering us their local knowledge with specialized tours in Ghent and Bruges and to Jeroen Vandommele for organizing a round table conversation.
HNA and Ghent University are thankful to the many sponsors who have contributed so generously to this event. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation provided travel assistance for some of our North American speakers and chairs. I thank David Levine, our treasurer, for facilitating these grants. The opening reception was offered by the city of Ghent, for which we thank Annelies Storms, City Councillor of Culture, in particular. We are grateful to our colleagues of the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent for the reception tonight and for offering free admission to conference participants. In addition, we also thank the sponsoring publishers, who will exhibit in our book fair today.
This conference would not have been possible without the efforts of numerous individuals. The staff from Vandenhove Pavilion was generous to offer their location for welcoming the HNA board yesterday. We especially thank Cathérine Verleysen, Johan De Smet, Peggy Hobbels and Brigitte De Vos from the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent for their participation and help with the events at the museum. Mieke Dutré provided assistance at the Ghent location Het Pand, as did Till-Holger Borchert, Vanessa Paumen and Mieke Parez at the Bruges locations.
Abigail Newman, Sophie Suykens and Elizabeth Vandeweghe were essential and indispensable for the organization of this conference. I would especially like to recognize Elizabeth, who has done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes in all matters of organization, working closely with Koen and Max, the program committee, and with me remotely from across the ocean. And of course, a number of other volunteers are working here at the conference to make the experience smoother and enjoyable for all of us. And finally, I thank all of you, HNA members and our community, who have contributed your time and expertise as planners, chairs, speakers, and participants in this year’s conference. We look forward to a lively and stimulating conference!