Symposia and Conferences

Center for the Study of Modern Art

The Center presents annual symposia on broad topics ranging from traditional to innovative aspects of art history and appreciation. The symposia, which align with the Phillips International Forum Weekend in Washington, underscore the museum’s aim to foster a “global conversation through the language of modern art.” Embracing a national and international role in the arts has shaped the identity of the museum in the 21st century.

The Center also holds an annual Art and Innovation Conference in collaboration with the University of Virginia, bringing together creative minds to explore interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding and experience of modern art.

monday, November 18, 2012
The Power of Culture / The Culture of Power
A day of conversations among policymakers, entrepreneurs, arts professionals, and artists about the role of arts and culture in a globalized world. From the importance of creative placemaking through shared cultural experiences, to the impact of cross-cultural exchange, the conversations underscored the unifying power of art. Jointly presented by The Phillips Collection and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, the event welcomed, among others, Pakistani actor, musician, painter, and social activist Jamal Shah; Executive Director and Chief Curator of Storefront for Art and Architecture Eva Franch i Gilabert; Cultural Attache of the Embassy of Chile Nicolas Bär; art collector and CEO of AllianceBernstein Peter Kraus; Cuban artist Tania Bruguera; Founder of Cre8ion Theresa Famularo; Founder of Dancing Classrooms Pierre Dulaine; and Chief Curator of Art in Embassies Virginia Shore.

Saturday, November 3, 2012
On the Confluence of Art and Music
This informal conversation addresses the interdisciplinary character of contemporary art as it incorporates images, sound, and music. Participants include sound artist and composer Alvin Lucier, Intersections artist Xavier Veilhan, multimedia artist Jesper Just, musician and performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson, and novelist and musician Rick Moody. Moderated by Director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art Klaus Ottmann.

Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Collection Museum: Past, Present, and Future
A series of three panels explored the evolution of private collections into public institutions in conjunction with The Phillips Collection’s 90th anniversary. The panels discussed the ethical and aesthetical challenges of collection museums in the 21st century. Panelists included: Jeremy Braddock, author of Collecting as Modernist Practice; Dorothy Kosinski, Director, The Phillips Collection; Alice Phillips Swistel, Trustee, The Phillips Collection; Eliza Rathbone, Chief Curator, The Phillips Collection; Sue Frank, Associate Curator for Research, The Phillips Collection; Bruce Altshuler, author of The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century; Christoph Vogtherr, Director, The Wallace Collection, London; Derek Gillman, Executive Director and President, The Barnes Foundation; Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark, Director, Ordrupgaard, Charlottenlund, Denmark; Klaus Ottmann, Director of The Center for the Study of Modern Art and Curator at Large, The Phillips Collection; Heiner Friedrich, founder of the Dia Art Foundation, New York; Marieluise Hessel, founder of the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College; and Paul Greenhalgh, Director, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Monday, October 4, 2010
Aspen Cultural Diplomacy Forum

As part of the second annual International Forum and in collaboration with The Aspen Institute, participants explored how the United States uses culture both to communicate and listen to other nations. The forum featured political and cultural leaders who continue to shape the policies and practices of cultural diplomacy in the public and private sectors. Participants included: Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State; The Honorable John Brademas, President Emeritus, New York University; Elizabeth Diller, senior architect of Diller, Scofidio & Renfro; Eric Fischl, artist; Chairman Jim Leach, National Endowment for the Humanities; Congressman Jim Moran, U.S. House of Representatives; Dr. Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran; His Excellency Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador to the United States; Moderators included: Michael Dirda, Dana Gioia, Cynthia Schneider, Philip Kennicott, Dorothy Kosinski, and Eric Motley.

Saturday, October 10, 2009
The Potential of Art: Collaborative Creativity/Collective Responsibility
As part of the inaugural International Forum weekend at The Phillips Collection, participants investigated different modes of civic engagement with art, from private and corporate collecting to government and federal involvement, the nature of purpose of collaborations among artists, patrons, art institutions and funding agencies, and collective responsibility towards art. Participants included: Anne Pasternak, Director, Creative Time; artist Krzysztof Wodiczko; collector and co-founder of Rubell Family Collection, Mera Rubell; collector and co-founder of Ullens Contemporary, Guy Ullens; scholar, professor and critic Michael Brenson; chief curator for Agence-France Muséums, Laurence des Cars; and Director of the Curb Center for Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, Bill Ivey.

Saturday, September 27, 2008
Painting in the 21st Century
In collaboration with the University of Illinois, artists, critics and scholars, including Spencer Finch, Leng Lin, Blake Gopnik, Joseph Marioni, and Yves-Alain Bois among others, discussed contemporary painting from a range of perspectives, embracing the artist’s point of view and those of the art historian and the critic. Panel discussions focused on three aspects from which to consider painting: figuration, color, and criticism.

Saturday, September 15, 2007
Issues of Content: Museums of Modern and Contemporary Art Today
In collaboration with the University of Illinois, leading scholars from the United States, Spain, and Brazil joined in discourse with directors of four American art museums, including Dr. Neal Benezra of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Kathy Halbreich of the Walker Art Center, to examine issues in museums’ choices of art, space, and public stance and how museums deal with the discursive—often political—content of art and the challenges of respecting both the artist’s intent and the museum’s audiences.

Saturday, September 9, 2006
Art and the Brain
In collaboration with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the symposium explored new territory at the intersection of neuroscience and aesthetics. A panel of neuroscientists and philosophers presented research and discussed the mutual interaction of their fields of inquiry, exploring ways in which new work on the physiology of the brain illuminates our understanding of art and conversely how art helps us understand the brain.