Monthly Archives: August 2014

NIAS Grant -Exploring the Democratization and Globalization of the art world in the Digital Era

We have been working for a number of years on the extent to which the internet serves as a game changer in the art world. It has been an exciting albeit challenging journey so far combining two disciplines – internet studies and cultural economics. Perhaps because of this unusual mix of bringing Media Studies with Art Economics, we have had quite an adventure in our invited lectures, be it at ‘Sotheby’s, Duke’s Visual Studies Initiative to the Swiss Institute for Art Research.

We keep hearing how academia pays lip-service to interdisciplinary work, especially in grant acquisition. Yet, we persisted as we believe that it is essential if we are to find some original answers to these hyped and revolutionizing notions on how the art world is transforming with the onset of new media technologies. So we applied to NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study), a wonderful venue with a rich intellectual heritage, to host a workshop on this topic and were delighted to hear the news of winning this workshop grant.

In a nutshell, our workshop intends to explore contemporary trends on digitization in the art world and market of the twenty-first century and focus on the visual arts as it is exhibited, discussed and traded online. Thereby, this workshop questions how and under what circumstances the internet gives rise to new and democratic forms of art product consumption and knowledge circulation, and how the specific characteristics of the digital medium, the audiences and cultural contexts contribute to this novel phenomenon. Hence, our objective is to fill an important gap in the framing of the cultural commons today. We are aiming for an interdisciplinary workshop inviting people from the fields of art history, communication and media, anthropology, cultural economics, and sociology of the arts. The outcomes of this workshop will not just be theoretically relevant but also of practical use for public art institutions under tremendous pressure to be less exclusive and more economically viable.

So will keep you guys posted on the outcome of this workshop that is planned for November of this year!


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Organized Panel on the Art World 2.0 for the Association of Internet Researchers Conference in Korea

Our organized panel ‘The Art World 2.0: Investigating the Democratizing Impact of the Internet on High Culture’ has been accepted for the AoIR conference this October 2014 in Korea. We have some exciting speakers on this panel including Ioana Literat from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC and Katherine Jentleson from the Visual Arts Department, Duke University.

Basically, the panel will revolve around the premise that museums, auction houses and galleries have long served as critical intermediaries in the making of high culture. They are seminal gatekeepers of the art world and market, and have long privileged high barriers of entry in the shaping of art consumption for the public. They have been accused of being elusive and non-transparent in the management of art products and information, making the art world deeply elitist. With the advent of Web 2.0, there is promise of a revolutionary change in the art domain, allowing for unprecedented democratic participation in the constructing of the art object, experience and knowledge by the public. While much research has been done on how digital participatory networks shape popular culture, few studies address their impact on high culture, leaving an important gap in this area of scholarship.

Hence, this panel takes on the themes of:

a) amateurs versus experts in the making of art knowledge construction online and concerns on art quality

b) the reconstituting of relations between public art institutions and their audiences through social media platforms

c) new means of art production and circulation via digital networks and concerns on art authenticity and ownership

Ioana Literat will be talking about “Crowdsourced Art: An Emerging Model of Online Creativity and Collaboration,” critiquing projects involving online crowdsourced art, defined as the practice of using the Internet as a participatory platform to directly engage the public in the creation of artwork. Katherine Jentleson will be talking about “Everybody’s An Art Collector These Days: The Fantasy Collecting Game,” based on a visually stimulating browser-based art collection game created by her. Here, she will demo a more recent prototype, give a brief history of the project, and evaluate gameplay to highlight how Fantasy Collecting might be adopted by institutions seeking to gamify their open collections initiatives. And last but not least, we are talking about “New information brokers and art narratives: Implications of searching online for art information,” investigating the potential of new digital intermediaries such as Wikipedia and Google in influencing the public shaping of art knowledge, questioning the role of amateurs in the world of art expertise as well as how the public knowledge sphere encounters information priesthoods in the art world.

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Online course on art markets in the digital age

We have been invited to design and teach an online course module for art professionals on Emerging markets and ICTs at IESA UK. The Institut d’Etudes Supérieures des Arts was created in 1985 in Paris as a vocational, dynamic and student-centered alternative to the more rigid and theoretical system in French universities. IESA UK renewed this philosophy in London in 2004, offering cutting edge programs that revolutionized the way the art market is taught, combining for the first time the study of history with the practice of business.

Our module focuses on emerging art markets and will consist of 8 sessions featuring several podcasts each. The aim of this course is to present art market students and professionals alike a thorough introduction to the art world, and provide insights as to how it operates. We will cover topics such as the impact of globalization on the art system, the role of experts and other intermediaries, quality in art, the rise of e-commerce, the potentially democratizing effect of the internet, the valuation of art and, of course, a discussion on emerging art markets such China and India.

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The India Art Fair and the Art Market of the Global South

India Art Fair 2014

A remarkable success story has been the inauguration of biennials and art fairs in new world art markets. Seen as evidence of the coming of age of an emerging art scene, these events are considered as an important manifestation and driving force of the integration of the international art world. Fairs and biennials feed the ongoing process of globalization by encouraging foreign artists and galleries to attend, and by catering to an international audience of buyers. In doing so, these gatherings are poised to defy national art schools and underscore the transnational character of the art world and market. To test some of these assumptions, we examined the India Art Fair  held in the capital Delhi as an exponent of the expanding contemporary Indian art market for visual arts. As the premier annual event in the Indian art world, we surveyed the galleries, artists and works of art that were showcased in the 2013 edition of the Delhi fair in order to get a sense of who and what drives the art market of the Global South. What fuels the contemporary Indian art market and shapes its artistic output – is it the new money and cosmopolitan tastes of the own middle and upper classes, or international demand? Also, we gauged the degree of local embeddedness versus the transnational nature of the art scene in India. Are art fairs truly celebrations of a diverse borderless art world featuring a broad spectrum of foreign artists or, on the contrary, do they primarily reflect local tastes by promoting indigenous art?

The results of this project have been written up in a chapter which will appear in the forthcoming book on Canvases and Careers in a Cosmopolitan Culture. On the Globalization of Contemporary Art Markets, edited by Olav Velthuis and Stefano Baia Curioni, and published by Oxford University Press. A draft version of this chapter can be downloaded here.

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Sotheby’s Workshop and ‘End of the art connoisseur’ publication

Sotheby’s Art Institute and University of Cambridge Judge Business School organized a very stimulating workshop with a lecture series on the new risks in the art market from multiple perspectives including economists, business folk, art dealers, auctioneers, and media experts: Exploring Risk and Uncertainty: Metaphors from the Art Market. Questions about the role of information in valuation, the new sources of knowledge and the management of these sources for assessment, the place of originality of the art in contemporary valuation and more were tackled and discussed.

We presented on specifically intermediaries, from the past to the digital present and the implications new media has in this age old gate-keeping space when it comes to making decisions and evaluations on art value. Our paper explores the position and purpose of experts in the art world over time. It has been long understood that art theorists, critics, historians, dealers, auctioneers, curators and so forth play a seminal role as intermediaries in a market that features significant information asymmetries and uncertainty. They facilitate exchanges and are instrumental in determining the artistic, social and financial value of a work of art.

However, in this digital age, declarations surface on the death of the expert and the rise of the art amateur. Crowd wisdom is seen as the new guide in constructing and evaluating knowledge. The intrinsic value of a work of art is not (or no longer) a given, and various new intermediaries, both social and technical, now appear to contribute to and compete in shaping the valuation process.

In the context of the art world, questions therefore arise relative to the role of the amateur in the evaluation and validation of art in current times. Do social media level the playing field and can we assume that equity and vastly increased scale in participation results in better judgments? Does online participation on art valuation impact its actual market pricing? What is the role of the expert in the evaluation of art in contemporary times? Do social media dismantle age-old hierarchies and established priesthoods in the art world? And can we assume that mass participation in valuation results in better judgments?

We published a form of this presented paper in the Information, Communication and Society Journal  that can be accessed in full here

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