Symposia and Conferences

Center for Art and Knowledge

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.

International Forum: Artists of Conscience - Veterans, Art, and Wellness

This year's forum explored the impact that art and art therapies can have on the lives of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic-brain injury (TBI), and other combat-related psychological health conditions. Speakers include Jane Chu, Former Chair, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); Sara Kass, MD, Military and Medical Advisor, Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network; Army Sgt. Zach Herrick, Purple Heart Recipient and Founder, American Heroes HeART; Ben King, Iraq War veteran and Founder, Armor Down; and Klaus Ottmann, The Phillips Collection Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Academic Affairs.

International Forum: Artists of Conscience - Nature + Art + Climate + Change
The Phillips Collection’s International Forum is rooted in the institution’s aim to contribute to the global conversation through the language of modern and contemporary art. A joint presentation with the University of Maryland, 2018’s afternoon of dialogue brought together leaders across disciplines to discuss the great implications and meaning of “Nature + Art + Climate + Change.” The program included presentations by Meg Webster, (artist) Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass (founders of Random International and creators of Rain Room), and Henry Elkus (CEO of Helena), as well as a one-on-one conversation between Dr. Hester Baer (Associate Professor and Head of the German Department at UMD) and Dr. Robert Orr (Dean of the School of Public Policy at UMD and former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning).

International Forum: Artists of Conscience

The Phillips Collection’s International Forum is rooted in the institution’s aim to contribute to the global conversation through the language of modern art. A joint presentation with the University of Maryland, 2017's afternoon of dialogue brought together leaders across disciplines to discuss the great implications and meaning of “Artists of Conscience.” The program included a keynote lecture by artist Sanford Biggers (recipient of the 2017 Rome Prize), a poetry reading by Fatimah Asghar (creator of the web series Brown Girls), as well as one-on-one conversations between the artists and leading scholars from the University of Maryland. Conversations will explore shared perspectives on the increasingly significant role artists are playing in political and social discourse of today. 

For the 2016 Phillips Collection—University of Maryland International Forum, leaders across disciplines discussed artistic and curatorial approaches to visual narratives of migration and immigration. How can art tell stories of people on the move? What is the civic role of art and art institutions in raising awareness to promote social change? Participants discussed the ethical and aesthetical capacities of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series to bridge the humanities, public policy, and social sciences and inspire societal change and well-being in the context of the 21st-century immigrant experience. The event included two staged readings of short plays written in response to The Migration Series, panel discussions with thought leaders, and a creative response from Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Leading Edge Ideas: Inside the 21st-Century Museum
This day-long public program began with a discussion on philanthropy with Vicki and Roger Sant and Jeffrey Brown, Chief Correspondent for Arts, Culture, and Society, PBS NewsHour, followed by the presentation of the Duncan Phillips Medal to the Sants. The program continued with a panel on Art, Contemplation, and Well-being, in partnership with University of Virginia, featuring artist Wolfgang Laib; David Germano, Lead Faculty Director, Contemplative Sciences Center, UVA; Kennita R. Carter, Acting Director, Integrative Health Coordinating Center, Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation at the Veterans Health Administration; and Brooke Rosenblatt, Head of Public Engagement, The Phillips Collection. The final panel, in collaboration with the State Department’s office of Art in Embassies, included visiting Senegalese artists, former US ambassador to Senegal Harriett Elam-Thomas, and Johnnetta Cole, Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. The program ended with a keynote address by Philip Kennicott, Art and Architecture Critic for The Washington Post. The event also featured two performances by artist Pedro Lasch.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.