Black Portraiture[s] II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories

Villa La Pietra, Firenze, Italy
28 May 2015 - 31 May 2015

Black Portraiture[s] II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories

The conference and exhibition Black Portraiture[s] II will offer comparative perspectives on the historical and contemporary role played by photography, art, film, literature, and music in referencing the image of the black body in the West.

It will be held in Florence, Italy, in May 28-31, 2015—as a sequel to five highly successful conferences held over the past six years. The most recent conference in the series was held in Paris, France in January 2013, where it attracted over 400 attendees—a feat rarely matched by established academic conferences. As on those occasions, the sixth conference will bring together artists and scholars from an assortment of disciplines and practices, including art history, fashion, dance, theater, and studio art, in wide-ranging conversations about imaging the black body. In this context, “Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories,” explores the impulses, ideas, and techniques undergirding the production of self-representation and desire, and the exchange of the gaze from the 19th century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and the archives.

Discussions will focus on aesthetics, vernacular style, fashion, and ethnographics in describing a sense of place and identity. The conference will also invite visitors to conduct a diverse visual reading of the notion of a black portrait while challenging conventional perspectives on identity, beauty, cosmopolitanism, and community in Africa and its diaspora. Through a series of panels and individual speakers, the presentations will include a wide range of discussions relating to the topic.

Some anticipated panels and presentations include:

– Neo-Black: Identities in the Making
– The Black Body: In Translation
– Out of/in Fashion—Exploring the double entendre
– Black Desire: Then and Now
– Hip Hop Stereotype the Enigma
– Re-Significations European Blackamoors, Africana Reading
– The Archive in the Black Body
– Social Media and the Moor through Pinterest
– Commodification of the Black Image on EBay and Fashion

This year’s conference will strike an innovative note by including a focus on depictions of the black body within the art collections of NYU’s Villa La Pietra, a historical villa and home of the New York University Florence program. These assets include a collection of sculptures and paintings representing ornamental black images that have come to be known as “Blackamoors.” Embedded within centuries-old discourses, cross-cultural encounters, and artistic productions shaped by migration, conquest, servitude, and exile, these images present a rich opportunity to deconstruct, compare, and contextualize the myriad portrayals of the black body in western societies from multidisciplinary angles. As such, they constitute an invaluable resource to fulfill the mandate of producing critical knowledge of African and African diasporic identities and representations shared by NYU and Harvard’s Hutchins Center. It is in the spirit of this mandate that we seek to invite historians, art historians, photographers, sculptors, filmmakers, musicians, designers, and choreographers to respond to and continue the discussion focusing on the black body in the West as well as the “Blackamoor” collection as a trope.


Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze, Italy




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