Petition to the Rectorate of the University of Vienna Academic Senate of the University of Vienna Academic Council of the University of Vienna Dean's Office of the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies Director of the Institute for Art History

Vienna, December 2018


Magnificence! Spectabilis! Dear Sir or Madam,

The employment of Prof. Noit Banai at the Department of Art History in Vienna comes to an end with the 2019 summer term. In the past five years, Prof. Banai has taken what was an unspecific §99 professorship in the field of research, theory and teaching and has transformed it into something worthy of becoming an academic chair for contemporary art. With the termination of her employment, we students of this department are confronted with tangible challenges and pressing questions. Therefore, we see an urgent need for action.

We students will lose the opportunity to specialize in the field of contemporary art. The imminent departure of Prof. Banai will not only affect those whose ongoing master theses she supervises but also the art history department in general, which—previously dedicated to the expansion of art genres and their boundaries as well as the merging of theory and practice—will lose an entire field of study.

The examination of contemporary art and its practices involves a great breadth of knowledge and heightened sensibilities, which continuously expand the methodological and content-related framework of traditional narratives of art history. A globalized (art) world requires open, interdisciplinary, feminist and decolonialised discourses that deal with current developments and apply new methods of scientific analysis, along with more conventional approaches. With its long tradition of being a leader in the field of art history, dating back to the Vienna School of Art History and even earlier, the Department of Art History at the University of Vienna has a responsibility to incorporate these new methodologies to retain its academic reputation.

Currently, the Department of Art History does not have an academic chair for contemporary art. If the department wishes to keep pace with international developments, it must offer a comprehensive range of courses. Only an independent professorship for contemporary art can meet the demands of participating in the very latest developments in the study, teaching and research of contemporary art in its international context. Thus, we consider the establishment of such an academic chair an absolute necessity as well as a great opportunity for students and professors alike, and for future art historians, curators, theoreticians, critics, art mediators and exhibition designers, to form a solid basis for their actions in a continually evolving art and professional world.


During her years at the University of Vienna, Prof. Banai has demonstrated her pioneering approach, not only in her teaching, but also in her exceptional engagement with her students as well as in her development of networks with Viennese and international art circles, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. This has required a methodology that goes beyond established approaches and instead uses models based on contemporary theories. Many Austrian and international students have embraced these methods with great enthusiasm. The large number of master theses supervised by Prof. Banai provide evidence of the steadily growing interest in this field. Due to the impending termination of her employment, however, no new master candidates for contemporary art may be accepted at this point.

It is regrettable that there has been no dialogue with students concerning these issues. Because neither the creation of a professorship for contemporary art nor continuity in the research and teaching of this subject on the part of the department are in sight, we see an urgent need to become active ourselves. Therefore we respectfully request:

  1. The establishment of a permanent Professorship for Contemporary Art in the Department of Art History at the University of Vienna.
  2. The appointment of Prof. Banai to this new professorship.
  3. An assurance of the continuity of research and teaching in contemporary art by extending the current contract of Prof. Banai until this new professorship has been established and staffed.

We thank you for your support.


Baris Acar, Chrstina Anderle, Blanka Böcskei, Doris Brandecker-Knerer, Christoph Chwatal, Stefanie Fridrik, Jacqueline Grassmann, Fanny Hauser, Kathrin Heinrich, Leon Hösl, Asija Ismailovski, Alexandra Freya Issel, Julia Jarrett, Yulia Kopr, Eva Kovač, Miljana Mirović, Larissa Mohr, Ulrike Payerhofer, Marie Perriard, Gregor Pirgie, Laleh Pourkhataee Monsef, Sophie Publig, Charlotte Reuß, Antonio Rosa de Pauli, Martina Schöggl, Hamida Sivac, Magdalena Stöger, Studienvertretung Kunstgeschichte, Malgorzata Suchadola, Diana Thun, Daniel Tischler, Elisabeth Vikydal, Klara Wanner, Vincent Weisl, Michael Wonnerth-Magnusson

Vielen Dank für Ihre Unterstützung, Ulrike Payerhofer aus Wien
Frage an den Initiator

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  • Dear Signee,

    The petition, "Chair of Contemporary Art at the University of Vienna," expired on Monday, February 4th with great success: 1,234 signatures and over 200 personal comments.

    We would like to thank everyone involved for their support!

    The petition has demonstrated the need for a greater engagement with the question regarding the place of contemporary art in the field of art history.

    After constructive discussions with representatives of the Department of Art History at the University of Vienna, we, the initiators of the petition, acknowledge that the ending of Prof. Noit Banai’s contract does not signify the complete discontinuation of the teaching of contemporary art at the department. The department will continue to offer courses in this field by establishing another temporary professorship and university assistants, among others, will continue to offer related courses on the subject. However, this effort, although worth celebrating, does not resolve many of the issues raised by the petition. For instance, many students at the department from now until that temporary professorship is established will not be eligible to pursue research in this field for their MA theses due to the lack of a suitable supervisor. Furthermore, this constant influx of temporary professorships prevents continuity and stability for those students in the department who wish to specialize in the subject.

    In order to address our common concerns in a public setting, we will host a moderated panel discussion on March 5th, 2019 to examine from different perspectives the role of contemporary art and its concomitant methods in the field of art history.

    In addition to the invited representatives from the Department of Art History and its students,
    DR. SABINE HAAG (General Director, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna) and
    UNIV.-PROF. EVA MARIA STADLER (Curator, Professor of Art and Knowledge Transfer, University of Applied Arts Vienna) will appear on the panel. The discussion will be moderated by Georg Schöllhammer (Head of, Editor-in-Chief of springerin).

    We cordially invite you to the panel discussion:

    Contemporary Matters:
    Contemporary Art in the Context of Academia and Research

    Tuesday, March 5, 6.30 pm

    Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Seminar Room 1
    Entrance Garnisongasse 13
    Universitätscampus Hof 9
    1090 Vienna

    Thank you for your support!

    Yours Sincerely,

    The Initiators of the Petition, "Establishment of a Permanent Professorship of Contemporary Art,” and the Organizers the Panel Discussion, "Contemporary Matters”


I think it is important for a great university like Uni Wien, with its long and distinguished history within this singular city to have a critical program in contemporary art and art theory. At Columbia University we have taken many steps in this area. I can think of no one better than Noit Banai, herself a brilliant and original Columbia graduate, to help establish and to develop such a program in Vienna with its unique traditions and its continuing role in larger transformations in art and art institutions at work in the world today. She has already inspired done much there towards this aim


Noch kein CONTRA Argument.