At the time of the Spanish invasion of Mexico in 1519, there was, as there was in every part of the Americas, a complete worldview that developed in isolation from Europe, Asia, and Africa, and which manifested itself in both material and immaterial culture. Today, this worldview can be explored through the art and architecture of that Pre-Hispanic past, revealing one of the world’s great creative traditions. This series of lectures will examine some of the ways to engage with both the meaning and the aesthetics of the ancient Americas through such vehicles as: Indigenous writing systems that, once deciphered, brought new voices and histories to the fore; archaeology, which continuously brings new materials and, with them, new aspects and understandings of the past to the surface; and iconography, which has revealed religious meanings and patterns of belief suppressed by European “discovery” and “conquest.”
In her three lectures, Dr. Mary Miller will focus on the Pre-Hispanic past in the greater Maya region, which encompasses five modern nations: Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, northern El Salvador, and southern Mexico. Her particular geographic focus will be in southern Mexico (the states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan), and the Peten of Guatemala. Starting with the materials and the technology that made representation possible, she will then turn to the art-making practices of the 8th century Maya, considering both innovation and stasis as important manifestations of creative expression. Finally, she will consider the conditions that have brought Pre-Hispanic art to the art museum and art market of the 20th and 21st centuries, with thoughts about how this may develop in the future.
Dr. Mary Miller is Director of the Getty Research Institute, located at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. She earned her A.B. from Princeton University and her Ph.D. from Yale University. A specialist of the art of the ancient Americas, Dr. Miller is both a scholar and curator, as well as a prominent figure in institutional leadership.
Dr. Miller is the author of numerous scholarly articles, and the author or co-author of many celebrated books, including: The Murals of Bonampak (1986), The Art of Mesoamerica (1986, now in its 6th edition), The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (1993, with Karl Taube), and Maya Art and Architecture (1999, now in a new edition with Megan O’Neil). With Barbara Mundy, Dr. Miller edited Painting a Map of Mexico City (2012), a study of the rare Indigenous (Colonial Aztec) map in the Beinecke Library of Yale University; and with Claudia Brittenham, she wrote The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak (2013). Among her diverse curatorial activities, Dr. Miller co-curated the landmark exhibition The Blood of Kings (1986) with Linda Schele at the Kimbell Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, and she led The Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya (1994) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Miller is also recognized for her work as a leader in higher education and the humanities. Long a member of the Yale University faculty, Dr. Miller served in many administrative roles before coming to the Getty, notably as Dean of Yale College from 2008-2014; she was the first woman to hold this position. At Yale, she also served as chair of the Department of History of Art, chair of the Council on Latin American Studies, graduate advisor to the program in Archaeological Studies, and as a member of the Steering Committee of the Women Faculty Forum. From 2016-2018, she was Senior Director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage on Yale’s West Campus. As Director of the Getty Research Institute, she has led efforts in Pre-Hispanic Art Provenance; Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI); and the promotion of increasingly diverse opportunities for academic and community engagement.
For her work on ancient Mexico and the Maya, Dr. Miller has won national recognition, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1988 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996. In 1994, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has delivered numerous named lectureships, including the Fifty-Ninth A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art in 2010, the Slade Lectures at Cambridge University in 2015, and the Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award Lecture at Harvard University in 2021. Yale University will honor her with the Wilbur Cross Medal in 2022, the highest award to its graduate alumni.
About the lectures
10. 29 9:30am- 12:30pm (GMT+8)
The Maya World: Discovering Materials, Dominating Materiality
Respondent: Li Xinwei (Professor of the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)
Fish-bird Transformation Motif on Painted Pottery of the Yangshao Culture
10. 30 9:30am- 12:30pm (GMT+8)
Maya Art: How Art Changes, and How it Stays the Same
Respondent: Wang Haicheng (Associate Professor of the Department of Art History, University of Washington)
Thirteen Disconnected Thoughts about Continuity and Invention in the History of Art
10. 31 9:30am- 12:30pm (GMT+8)
Maya Art in Modern Times
Respondent: Xu Jian (Professor of the Department of History, Shanghai University）
Homogeneous or Alien: Chinese Art in American Museums
Wu Hung (Executive Director of OCAT Institute; Professor of the Department of Art History and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago)
Guo Weiqi (Academic Director of OCAT Institute; Associate Professor of Art History, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts)
Liu Lingyi (Public Programs, OCAT Institute)
Courtesy OCAT Institute.