Discussion | What has Religion to do with Art?: A panel on Art and the Order of Existence | Power Institute, Sydney

Thomas Crow, Hannah Williams, and Dr. Florian Knothe in conversation with Mark Ledbury

The Power Institute with Sydney Ideas is pleased to invite you to a panel discussion on the role that religion plays in the making and understanding of art. This will be followed by the launch of Thomas Crow’s new book, No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art.

Date: Wednesday 15th March 2017, 6-8pm

Venue: Law School Foyer, Level 2 Law School Annex, Eastern Avenue,Camperdown Campus, The University of Sydney

Cost: Free and open to all with registration requested here.



Much of what we call art today was created in religious contexts and for spaces of ritual or worship – and many artists of our own ‘secular’ age have been heavily inspired by religious ideas. For this panel the distinguished art historian Thomas Crow, author of a new and provocative Power Polemic No Idols, will be joined by fellow art historian Hannah Williams, whose research focus is eighteenth-century French art. Together, they will discuss the subject of art making in ‘enlightened, secular’ Europe, to explore and address the way in which art history in the Western world deals with the sacred and the secular.

Following the discussion, there will be a formal launch of Thomas Crow’s book, No Idols:The Missing Theology of Art with refreshments served afterwards. The book will be officially launched by Professor Rex Butler.


  • Thomas Crow, Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art; Associate Provost for the Arts, the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
  • Hannah Williams, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Florian Knothe, Director, University Museum & Art Gallery, University of Hong Kong
  • Mark Ledbury, Director Power Institute


Thomas Crow’s No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art addresses a disabling blindspot in today’s art-historical inquiry: the failure to take religion seriously. Through exploration of a humble still life by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, No Idols sets the scene for positing an art of divinity without doctrine, or religion against the grain. Crow’s case for a reconsideration of the metaphysical in art is made through analysis of the work of New Zealand artist Colin McCahon and American counterparts Mark Rothko, Robert Smithson, James Turrell and Sister Mary Corita Kent. The collective stature of this tightly selected group of artists, supports the author’s proposal that a religious art, as opposed to ‘a simulacrum of one’, is conceivable for our own time.

Copies of No Idols will be available for purchase on the night and can be pre-purchased here.

Leave a Reply