Art is a luxury good. During every period of economic stagnation the cultural sector’s dependence on money is painfully emphasized. The two traditional benefactors, the state and the private sector, are subject of an age-old debate: is it preferable to be endorsed by state money or by the market? Art that is independent of commerce is of vital importance for society, is how the maxim goes; therefore this freedom should be secured with public funds. Directly opposing this belief is the neoliberal conviction that artist and institution should be able to stand on their own two feet; art that is important enough will be supported by individuals and private parties, the argument goes. This ideological division of opinions has animated the art world since at least the nineteenth century, and now the line between public and private is about to be unsettled once more. Public actors disappear or are withdrawn in the expectation that the market will take control of the no-man’s land.
The implication of this development is the necessary reconfiguration of the rules and values within the art world itself. What this will result in is unclear. As the art world’s infrastructure in many countries is challenged, predominantly so in the Netherlands and Belgium, and, as a response, stimulated in others, such as Germany, the moment is there to pose questions that touch upon both the ideological, practical, and historical aspects of this matter. Do neoliberal approaches to art, that see no objection in large economic interests, have a corrupting influence on art’s integrity, or are they the most qualitatively sustainable answer in times of crisis? Or is ‘good’ art per definition unprofitable and therefore outlawed in a capitalist market economy? Is a critical attitude towards state budget cuts and the commercial forces that are unleashed as a result, a necessary ideal, or spurred by the self-interest of the art world, which benefits from unconditional state support? In what way do museums relate to the (art) market? How do the operations of galleries and dealers change? How do auction houses react to the developments? How do the roles of the patron, the sponsor and the collector evolve? How does the present condition of the art market differ from previous periods? Can the contemporary art world learn from the financial ethics of past times, or can we put today’s hardships into perspective by comparing them to historical situations?
This publication is a platform, both for historical and contemporary case studies, for political and theoretical debate, but also to transcend ideological oppositions: in search of the fundamental problems and sustainable solutions. Doesn’t the time demand a new theoretical approach to the art market?
Proposals (200 – 300 words) with attached résumés can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org before 22 October 2012. Selected authors will be invited to write a 2,000 – 3,000-word paper (excluding notes). Papers may be written either in English or in Dutch, although we prefer native Dutch speakers to write in their native language.
Authors who publish in Kunstlicht will receive three complimentary copies. Kunstlicht does not provide an author’s honorarium. Two years following publication, papers will be submitted to the freely accessible online archive at www.tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl/site/index.php/archief.
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