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Columbia University Professor to Give Dickson Memorial Lecture in Art History

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Holger Klein - Byzantine Relic

Holger Klein, professor and chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, will give a public lecture, “Materiality and the Sacred: Relics and the Rhetoric of Enshrinement,” at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 19, in 112 Borland Building on the Penn State University Park campus. Klein’s lecture is part of the Harold E. Dickson Memorial Lecture Series, which honors one of the founders of the Penn State Department of Art History.

The lecture will explore Byzantine strategies of the display of sacred matter and suggest the conscious use of a rhetoric of enshrinement, in which words, images, and sacred matter are employed synthetically in an effort to transcend the barriers of ‘bodily’ sight. “While the combined use of images, text, and sacred matter is attested as early as the late antique period,” Klein says, “it is in the middle Byzantine period that a conscious effort is made to present the precious relic in a well-crafted kosmos of words and images­.” He will discuss the special status of Christian relics as things that not only transcend the boundaries between matter and spirit, earth and heaven, life and death, part and whole, but contain elements of both or omit or collapse these categories altogether.

Klein’s research focuses on late antique, early medieval, and Byzantine art and architecture, more specifically, on the cult of relics, reliquaries, and issues of cultural and artistic exchange. From 2004–2007 he served as the Robert P. Bergman Curator of Medieval Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art and continued to oversee the reinstallation of the museum's renowned collection of Medieval and Byzantine art until 2010. His work as a curator includes various international loan exhibitions, among them Restoring Byzantium: The Kariye Camii in Istanbul and the Byzantine Institute Restoration (Wallach Art Gallery, 2004), Medieval Treasures from The Cleveland Museum of Art (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum/The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007–08), and Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe (Cleveland Museum of Art/Walters Art Museum/British Museum, 2010–11).

Klein was educated in art history, early Christian archaeology, and German literature at the universities of Freiburg im Breisgau, Munich, London, and Bonn. In 2011, he received the 50th annual Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching, which honors a Columbia professor for commitment to undergraduate instruction as well as for "humanity, devotion to truth, and inspiring leadership." Most recently, in 2012, he received the Columbia University Distinguished Faculty Award, which recognizes faculty who demonstrate unusual merit as teachers of undergraduate and graduate students as well as outstanding scholarship and service to the university.

Holger Klein, Columbia University
Holger Klein, Columbia University