Westsplaining in Art History

An Online Workshop 28 June 2024

No registration needed - open to all.

Zoom link 


passcode: 1SLH8Y

The term ‘westsplaining’ became popularized amongst political theorists in Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and was used critically to denote the ‘phenomenon of people from the Anglosphere loudly foisting their analytical schema and political prescriptions onto the [Eastern European] region’ (Smoleński and Dutkiewicz). As such, it was a specific example of a wider, long criticized, problem to do with the colonial nature of knowledge production and the hegemonic status of (western) European and North American epistemic practices. 

The critique was a response to debates in political theory, but it might be applied to many other domains of inquiry, including the humanities. It has gained increasing currency in art history, and this workshop aims to consider the different forms of art historical ‘westsplaining.’ The term implies the need for an intellectual archaeology, a recovery of local discourses and intellectual traditions that have been eclipsed by hegemonic western discourses. The workshop thus seeks to explore such alternative models of art historical analysis. It asks:

What is the ‘West’ in westsplaining and who / what does non-western mean?

What does it mean to the use the term in the context of art history? What blindspots does it reveal? 


All abstracts available here

All times CEST

10.00 - Introduction 

Session 1 - chaired by Matthew Rampley

10.10 - Lavinia Amenduni, Eastsplanation as Westsplanation: Exoticizing Medieval European Art in Early Art Historiography 

10.50 - Olga Syngaivska, Looking for the Origin. On Johann Georg Pinsel’s Perception in Academic Literature and Exhibiting

11.30 - break 

Session 2 - chaired by David Crowley

11.50 - Oleksandra Osadcha, Westplaining or Self-Eastplaining? On the Cases of Exhibiting Late Soviet Photography During Perestroika

12.30 - Anne Pfautsch, Westsplaining in Germany: Othering East Germany 

13.10 - break

Session 3 - chaired by Magdalena Radomska

14.00 - Kuba Szreder, Potemkin Museums or Institutions of the Commons? A Short Intervention in Current Debates about the Democratisation of the Polish Institutions of Contemporary Art 

14.40 - Zoltán Ginelli, Hungarian Westsplaining: Westcentric Geographies of Colonial Difference, Competitive Exceptionalism and Non-comparative Victimhood in the Hungarian Colony

15.20 - break

Session 4 - chaired by Margaret Tali 

15.40 - Giulia Menegale, Reframing Institutional Critique through the Work of Prelom – a journal for images and politics, a Belgrade-based magazine, 2001 and 2006

16.20 - Magdalena Radomska Is the Cold War Over If You Want It?- Westplaining the Transition 

17.00 - final thoughts


Organised by Margaret Tali, Tallinn University/ Estonian Academy of Arts, Institute of Art History Magdalena Radomska, Piotr Piotrowski Centre for Research on East-Central European Art, Art Sciences Department, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań Matthew Rampley, Centre for Modern Art and Theory, Masaryk University Brno David Crowley, National College of Art and Design, Dublin.