In 2018, a two-member team began to specialize in the theory and historiography of art history, thus introducing a line of research that had not yet been systematically pursued by the institute. A separate department was then established in 2019. The team members centre their research around Central-European theory and the aesthetic of visual art before art history became institutionalized in the mid-19th century. Further research focuses on the methodology of twentieth-century art history, concentrating particularly on the Vienna school of art history and its reception in the Czech lands, how art history has drawn on Czech structuralist aesthetics and how the Czech iconology was established, or to studying the discipline's institutional history. Department members also look into new theoretical challenges from fields such as visual and media studies and intermediality.
The department organizes conferences on visual art theory and aesthetics and art history methodology. The 2019 conference The Influence of the Vienna School of Art History Before and After 1918 / Wirken der Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte vor und nach 1918 received international attention (proceedings in Journal of Art Historiography 2019 a 2020). The next year of this conference will be held in 2021, focused to the work of Max Dvořák (The 100th Anniversary of Max Dvořák’s Death).
Another opportunity for methodological self-reflection was the joint workshop between IAH and the Institute of Czech Literature at CAS, entitled Styl a poetika. Historie, teorie, aplikace / Style and poetics. History, theory, application (2019) which opened new perspectives on “old” topics through interdisciplinary discussion.
The department members also prepare and oversee translations of theoretically and methodologically inspiring texts published by Academia press – Heinrich Wölfflin’s Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe was the first published in 2020, translations of Arthur C. Danto, Jonathan Crary or Aby Warburg’s works are currently being prepared for publication.