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King's College London and Duke University are pleased to announce 'Idols and Taboos'

The Department of Theology & Religious Studies at King's and Duke University presents 'Idols and Taboos: Modern & Contemporary Art and Theology Today' an evening of discussion about the relationship between modern and contemporary visual art and Christian tradition.

idols and taboos

Image: Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The White Tablecloth (1731-2). Oil on canvas. Art Institute of Chicago

King’s College London and Duke University are pleased to announce an evening of discussion, testing the temperature of the relationship between modern and contemporary visual art and Christian tradition today. This exceptional programme brings together contributions from Professor James Elkins (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and Professor Thomas Crow (New York University), chaired by Professor Ben Quash (King’s College London).

This free, public event will take place in Chicago, America and is part of a four-year research project on the topic of Theology, Modernity, and the Visual Arts, led by Professor Ben Quash at King’s College London, in collaboration with Duke University, and generously sponsored by the McDonald Agape Foundation.   Its purpose is to enquire into a theological reading of modernity in the company of visual artists, asking how the visual arts can help us to understand the theological (or even anti-theological) currents of modernity more deeply. Theology, Modernity, and the Visual Arts is part of a larger enterprise (Theology, Modernity, and the Arts) established by Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, which is undertaking research in three main areas: music, the visual arts, and literature.   

The programme for Theology, Modernity, and the Visual Arts consists of a series of academic symposia hosted by major international art galleries in the UK, USA, and Europe. It began in 2018 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London and will move to Berlin in 2020.  Attended by a core group of international scholars in theology and art history, these meetings provide an opportunity for a sustained discussion of how the visual arts can help in interpreting the theological dimensions of modernity, and how theology can reflect on and inform interpretations of modernity in and through the visual arts.

The group is exploring what theology can learn from the insights and suggestions of modern and contemporary art, even when that art seems deliberately to provoke or repel.  Given the abiding power of Christian motifs, ideas, and styles in a host of modern works that superficially look un- or anti-Christian, the group is also considering these indications that visual art and Christian tradition have not become complete strangers, and asking how contemporary viewers (Christian and non-Christian) interact with historical Christian art, and how modern sensibilities affect our viewing of earlier Christian artworks and artistic traditions.

The symposia are accompanied by public events with high-profile artists, theologians, and critics.  These are opportunities to reflect on the visual arts as an arena in which some of the deepest questions of life and death, meaning and purpose, continue to be raised, and on the relationship of visual art with Christianity, both as cultural heritage and as contemporary lived faith. 

For further information about this event, please click here.