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Fiscal 2023 – Message from the Chairman

Upon the occasion of being re-elected as the JAHS Society Chairman for fiscal 2023, I would like to extend my greetings to all and remark on the current state of JAHS.

The Japan Art History Society was established in June 1949 with 201 members, with the aim of promoting research activities related to art history. Upon the occasion of the 76th General Meeting of the Society held at Kyushu University in May 2023, the society's current membership was reported as 2,231 members.

JAHS operations are carried out by the Eastern and Western Divisions of the Standing Committee (with 18 Administrative Officers in the Eastern Division and 12 in the Western Division). A General Assembly is held once a year, while the Eastern and Western Divisions each hold five Regular Meetings per year, along with General Meetings and co-organize and support other related activities each year. The late Tsuji Sahoko, Professor Emeritus at Ochanomizu Women’s University and Nagoya University, bequeathed funds to JAHS, which have been used to establish the Sahoko Tsuji Memorial Fund for the Promotion of Art Historical Study. This fund supports visits to Japan by foreign scholars.

The results of these activities and the research reports given at the General Assembly and Division Meetings are published in the scholarly journal Bijutsushi. Published semi-annually, Bijutsushi features articles that have undergone a strict review by the Editorial Committee and external readers. The Bijutsushi Prize is awarded annually to one to three articles that have been judged to be superior by the Prize Committee from among those published in that year’s Bijutsushi issues.
Work is progressing on Art History in Japan, a two-volume publication containing 20 of the previous Bijutsushi Prize winning articles translated into English. This project aims to convey Japan’s superb art historical research to audiences worldwide. This project was begun from the decision that not only individual scholars but also JAHS as a whole should take a more active stance in conveying information about Japanese culture and the state of research in Japan to audiences worldwide. While considerable time has been required to ensure the high quality of the publication, it is scheduled for completion this year. I hereby express my deep gratitude to all those JAHS committee members who have cooperated with this project.

JAHS has specific officers in charge of our liaisons with other organizations, such as our member who liaises with the Japanese Association for Art Studies that brings together academic art-related societies such as the Japan Society for Aesthetics, along with others who each liaise respectively with the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA) and with the Conference of Eastern Studies and Asia Research.

JAHS offers opportunities for research reports and publications, carries out its activities with the cooperation of universities, research institutes, art museums and related organizations, as it also strives towards internationalization. All of these projects and events fall within our stated aim to further art historical research activities.

Regarding the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI), the efforts of all JAHS members to increase the number of KAKENHI grants applications and those awarded have made an extremely important contribution to art history research. In the current KAKENHI List of Categories, Areas, Disciplines and Research Fields, Art History has been successfully maintained as an independent discipline within the Art Studies category. I believe that an even greater effort is necessary within this framework.

Next I would like to touch on the various operational issues and challenges that JAHS faces today. JAHS membership numbers have peaked, and while only slightly, have started to decline. Further, a decrease in member fees collected means that we face the problem of too low a percentage of members voting in the Standing Committee elections. As well, it is increasingly difficult to convince universities to host our annual General Assemblies. The burden borne by the universities holding the General Assemblies, as well as those hosting the day-to-day operations of the Head Office and Eastern and Western Division Offices, are also problems to be resolved. We must reduce the administrative work of the JAHS offices in general, and the efficient use of IT solutions can assist in this process. As part of this effort we are shifting from a paper-based communications system to email communications. We must also gain the understanding and cooperation of each committee member and individual member as we work towards improved Society procedures and systems.

Since 2020, the world has been grappling with the spread of COVID-19 and many core JAHS activities have been among those greatly affected by the pandemic. The Society has seen a succession of canceled or postponed face-to-face events and research report presentations. In the face of these difficulties JAHS as a whole has worked diligently to shift its important functions to an online format, including meetings of the Standing Committee and General Assembly, along with Regular Meetings and their research report presentations. As the COVID-19 situation improved in fiscal 2022, we were able to introduce a hybrid (in-person and online) format for Division General Meetings and Museum Symposia. In May 2023, we successfully held the first General Assembly in a hybrid format. I would like to take this opportunity to once again extend my gratitude to all those at Kyushu University who made this new format General Assembly a success.

I believe that in troubled times we have much to learn from the human spirit, which creates art. I further believe that the mission of those of us involved in the scholarly field of art can convey to society today that which we discern in looking back over the history of art, that which is meaningful for us today.

JAHS continues to strive to provide an environment that supports advances in art historical research. I will work to help advance JAHS as an academic society active globally in our increasingly interconnected world, and a stimulating and fascinating academic society that fosters the next generation of scholars. I hope that each Society member will continue to cooperate with JAHS efforts and join me in furthering these goals.

September 2023

Nagaoka Ryūsaku
Chairman, JAHS

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