Literature Review | Lauren Reynolds Hall and Megan Cross Schmitt

The Destruction of Art

The most cursory of glances at the recent literature on the topics of vandalism and iconoclasm reveal that The Destruction of Art, Iconoclasm and Vandalism Since the French Revolution by Dario Gamboni (1997), is a seminal work on these topics. Gamboni, an art historian, curator, and professor at the University of Geneva, offers the most comprehensive and current exploration of the history and motivation behind centuries of destructive attacks on cultural property, while addressing the evolving perception and definition of art.

References to his 1997 book abound, and to try and tackle contemporary scholarship in these areas without first becoming familiar with Gamboni’s research proves difficult. Because his influence resonates throughout the literature, particularly in the essays reviewed for this article, Gamboni’s theories, arguments, and questions are applied as a means of framing the diverse and extensive issues raised in the material covered in this issue of Change Over Time. His work is used to thread recurring themes of perception, deliberation, action, intent, and modification, all of which are explored and challenged in this review.

Vandalism vs. Iconoclasm

The Oxford English Dictionary defines vandalism as “an action involving the deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.” Merriam-Webster adds intent in its definition of the term as “willful or malicious destruction or defacement.” Whether or not defined by its motives, vandalism can be categorized as unauthorized and typically harmful interaction with materials that are oftentimes cultural in nature.

The full article is available at Project MUSE