In the mid-90s, geological analyses of petroglyphs by archaeologists Bednarik and Kumar in the Auditorium Cave in Bhimbekta and the Daraki-Chattan rock shelter in India, dated the paintings found on the quartzite cave walls to 290,000 years before the dawn of the Christian era.
In 1863, Napoleon III granted the three thousand artists rejected from the Salon de Paris, the right to show their work in an annex to the official exhibition. History has chosen that event to symbolize the moment when artists took control of the making of art—the awakening of the "l'art pour l'art" (“art for art’s sake”) movement in the visual arts. Also in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and, in Canada, we were still four years away from confederation.
It’s now 2011, so if the art on the walls in Bhimbekta is the oldest art in the world, the history of art is now 292,011 years long and 1863 was yesterday. If the history of art were condensed to a 24-hour clock, 1863 is just over a second before midnight.