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Preziosi, Donald

    Full Name: Preziosi, Donald

    Other Names:

    • Donald Anthony Preziosi

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1941

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Classical, and sculpture (visual works)

    Career(s): educators


    Architectural- and art historian of the classical-era; professor, University of California, Los Angeles (1986-). Preziosi was the son of Romulus M. Preziosi and Mary Fazioli (Preziosi). He attended Fairfield College, Fairfield University in Connecticut, graduating in 1962 with degrees in English and Classics. He continued at Harvard University, receiving a master’s degree the following year in Linguistics. He was a Charles Eliot Norton Fellow at Harvard, 1964-65, and taught at the American School, Athens (Harvard Traveling Fellow) between 1965-1966 and at Yale University, beginning in 1967 (through 1973). His Ph.D. in art history was granted at Harvard in 1968. In 1973 he was appointed assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was awarded an NEH Fellowship for 1973-74. After an visiting professorship at Cornell, 1977-78, he became an Associate Professor at the State University of New York, Binghamton, in1978 (through 1986) where he acted as chair of the department of art history. His Semiotics of the Built Environment appeared in 1979, a strong example of a linguistic approach to architecture. Preziosi was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), National Gallery of Art for 1981-82. After another visiting appointment at Indiana University, 1985, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles in 1986. At UCLA he developed the art history critical theory program and the UCLA museum studies program. In 1989, his Rethinking Art History: Meditations on a Coy Science, his critique of the discipline of art history, appeared. He was a visiting professor at the Centre d’Histoire et Theorie d’Art, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris from 1991 and from that year on the Board of Directors of UCLA’s Paris Program in Critical Theory. In 1992 he delivered a paper on ethnicities at the National Gallery of Art conference on “Shaping of American Museums of Art. In the fall of 1993 he was the Cass Gilbert and Hill Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota. In 1995 Preziosi received an Oxford University Resident Fellowship. Preziosi authored the essay on “Collecting/Museums” in the Critical Terms in Art History (1996). After being named emeritus professor at UCLA, he served as the 2000-2001 Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford, delivering the annual Slade Lectures “Seeing Through Art History,” published as the Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity (2003). Preziosi was among those art historians trained in linguistics whose numbers also included Norman Bryson, although Preziosi’s work was less heavy-handed than Bryson’s. His critique on the methods of art history, Rethinking Art History, came at a critical time when the discipline was examining its origins and destiny. In later years he became an advocate for gay studies in art history.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Minoan Palace Planning and its Origins. Harvard University, 1968; Minoan Architectural Design: Formation and Signification. New York: Mouton, 1983; Rethinking Art History: Meditations on a Coy Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989; edited, The Art of Art History: a Critical Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998; edited, with Claire Farago. Grasping the World: the Idea of the Museum. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004; edited, with Bierman, Irene A., and Abou-El-Haj, Rifa’at Ali. The Ottoman City and its Parts: Urban Structure and Social Order. New Rochelle, NY: A. D. Caratzas, 1991; Architecture, Language and Meaning: the Origins of the Built World and its Semiotic Organization. The Hague: Mouton, 1979; Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity. [Slade Lectures, 2001]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003; The Semiotics of the Built Environment: an Introduction to Architectonic Analysis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979; “Constructing the origins of art.” Art Journal 42 no. 4 (Winter 1982): 320-5; “Museology and Museography.” Art Bulletin 77 (March 1995): 13-15; “Putting Up (with) Meaning.” Oxford Art Journal 13 no. 2 (1990): 121-4; “In the Temple of Entelechy: the Museum as Evidentiary Artifact.” Studies in the History of Art 47 (1994): 165-71.


    “Champs des recherche: Donald Preziosi.” Université Laval website.; Donald Preziosi CV.;


    "Preziosi, Donald." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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