Thank you for all who have registered!

We look forward to welcoming you in Helsinki this week.

You can download the programme and abstracts here: Programme

The Ateneum Art Museum opens at 10 on Thursday. Please proceed directly to the Ateneum Hall upstairs and pick up your badge. Our assistants will be there to help you.

A light lunch will be served on Friday and there will be coffee in the morning and afternoon. On Thursday, you can buy coffee, snacks and lunch in one of the two cafés at the Ateneum Art Museum, or visit a restaurant or café nearby. Here is a map with a few options within a short walking distance

Introducing the Keynote Speaker

The keynote speaker at RAHNC2023 is professor Patricia Berman, Wellesley College, US. She is an expert on Scandinavian art with a special interest in national identity formation, issues of gender and sexuality, and in the problems of public space. Her books include studies of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, Belgian artist James Ensor, and of Danish painting in the nineteenth century.


Canons Within, Canons Without

The exhibition history of Nordic art in North America is a case study in canonization involving regional collaboration and competition, national self-representation, overlapping curatorial missions, diplomacy, and the external shaping of an uncomfortable transnationalism.  The talk revisits the organization of the 1982 exhibition “Northern Light” (Washington, DC; Brooklyn; Minneapolis; and Göteborg), the horizon of expectations initiated by the 1912 multi-city exhibition of Scandinavian art, the European reception of the “Northern Light” paradigm, and the persistence of that paradigm.  The complex politics of inclusion, the ways in which the internal nationalisms of the Nordic countries intersected with views from without, and differing registers of art-historical chronology and definition shaped a North American canon of Nordic Art in which the period of the 1880s and ‘90s grew as a metonym for larger national and regional histories.  The talk considers how inclusions, exclusions, blind spots, and differing local political conditions shaped and reshaped 20th-century trans-Atlantic exchange, as well as ongoing echoes of that phenomenon.


The keynote speech will be followed by a panel with short “micro-histories” and a roudtable presenting the research initiative “Firing the Norwegian Canon”, organized by the University of Oslo and the National Museum (Oslo). The panel is convened by Patricia Berman who leads the project.

The CFP has ended, thank you for your submissions!

We wish to sincerely thank everyone who submitted an abstract. The Call for Papers was a huge success, and some difficult decisions had to be made in the review process.  Those who have been selected to present at the conference have been informed via email.  More information about the programme, registration and other details will be available soon.

Call for Papers

Rethinking Art Historical Narratives and Canons

Conference organised by the Society for Art History in Finland and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki, 9–10 November 2023

Venue: University of Helsinki & Ateneum Art Museum

In the last decades established art historical canons and narratives have increasingly been challenged. Intersectionality, decolonisation, transnational approaches, and the introduction of global art history are only a few examples of the modes of thinking that have gradually emerged from the margins to mainstream art history.

Conventional ways of constructing periodisations and genres based on notions of national specificity and the idea of progress have become highly questionable in the context of recent political, societal, and cultural developments. The urgency of generating new approaches and conceptual and methodological tools has become indisputable. Global and transnational perspectives have not only questioned the self-evidence of national canons, but also that of narratives that have been considered universal, such as the teleological progression of art towards modernism. Yet, notions like nationalism and progress remain central and extremely powerful aspects in contemporary political culture. Hence, the greatest challenge presented to art historical scholarship in these turbulent times is to find ways of engaging with these issues in ways that are sensitive, productive, and societally relevant.

We invite papers that approach this topic from various historical and contemporary perspective. For instance:

  • The role of museums, archives, and educational institutions in producing and reproducing narratives
  • Queer and/or gender perspectives in canon formation
  • Global/postcolonial perspectives in canon formation
  • Marginalisation and canon formation: how and why certain phenomena gets included and others remain in the margins
  • Rethinking nationalism and transnationalism in the formation art historical narratives: how do transnational perspectives challenge national art history?
  • The role of cultural memory and forgetting in art historical narratives
  • The role of art historical canons in the networks of cultural memory and forgetting
  • The meaning of national canons in a global world
  • The role of art historical scholarship in shaping and challenging nationalist narratives

Please send your abstract (max 500 words) to by 1 May 2023. The conference’s working languages are Finnish and English.


Header image: Gunnar Berndtson, Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre, 1879 (detail), Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation, photo: Vesa Aaltonen