Associate Professor of Art History Stephen J. Goldberg presented a public lecture titled “From Center to Periphery: Regional Culture and Identity in the Ritual Arts of Hunan Province” on Oct. 13, at Bowdoin College. His talk was part of a lecture series in conjunction with the Bowdoin College Museum of Art exhibition “Along the Yangzi River: Regional Culture of the Bronze Age from Hunan.” The exhibition was originally shown at the China Institute in New York City.
Goldberg began with an overview of the role of bronze vessels in the ritual practices at Anyang, the last capital of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1300-1050 BCE), and a brief discussion of their decor and its possible significance. This provided a context within and against which to discuss the regional art of Hunan ritual bronzes in the exhibition. Goldberg challenged the standard accounts of regional styles that are based on a core-periphery narrative. He argued for an appreciation of Hunan’s distinctive artistic style and iconography as not simply a derivation and variation of the art of the cosmopolitan center in the north, but rather an adaptation and refashioning of artistic forms to the requirements of the local culture. Finally, Goldberg showed that the southern art of Hunan was as much influenced by the network of regional traditions along the Yangzi River, such as in Sichuan and Anhui provinces, as it was from centers of culture and power further north.