Why Art Matters: Creation and Destruction, From Ancient Times Through Today

Denise Budd – Columbia University

The destruction of art and images has been a means of both expressing and challenging authority, since ancient times and across many cultures, so that the destruction of a likeness has often been considered tantamount to the destruction of the very thing it represents. For the Romans, this act of damnatio memoriae, or the condemnation of memory, equated the erasure of an image with erasure from history. During the Protestant Reformation, the removal of altarpieces and the whitewashing of churches was an expression of changing religious ideologies. In modern times, vandalism of artwork has become a means of political protest.

This lecture will examine selected works of art from antiquity through the 20th Century, examining not only the importance of the works themselves, but the way that their destruction, or attempted destruction, demonstrates the power of images