As an art-historical method devoted to analyzing the mechanisms of meaning in the work of art, iconology emerged as an open-ended methodology through the successive endeavors of three doyens in art history: Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky, and Ernst Gombrich. Aby Warburg and other members of the Hamburg school laid foundation for art history as a humanist discipline by basing their methodological framework on the interdisciplinary breadth of Kulturwissenschaft. With his profound and sweeping historical vision and rigorous intellectual inquiry, Erwin Panofsky established iconology’s lasting contribution to humanities, one that is no less brilliant than contributions from other disciplines. Further along the lineage, Ernst Gombrich’s critical studies brought iconology to a state of unprecedented openness, drawing increasing scholarly attention to its theories and practices.
Today, the connectivity and openness of iconology continue to nourish the disciplines of philosophy, history, literature, religious studies, psychology, politics, cultural studies and a variety of visual theories, not to mention the exciting shifts since New Art History in the 1980s. World 3: Open Iconology proposes to investigate the theoretical lineage of iconology as a modern methodology and its interdisciplinary impact, to showcase the potential prospects of iconology in contemporary research on art history, and to call for an open, critical attitude towards research.