The commercial art gallery and auction house, arguably the most visible
component of the modern art market, developed ostensibly as a means of
facilitating fiscal transactions, bringing together sellers, buyers,
and objects. But it is impossible, this session argues, to regard these
spaces as purely transactional because they also functioned as spaces
of social-cultural formation and exchange.
Indeed, some of the earliest visual representations of Western European
salesrooms focus on the sociability of these spaces, which were sites
of display for both objects and people. Such images register the
gradual expansion of the art market to serve a broader range of social
classes, but such processes were neither smooth nor uncontested.
Questions concerning the intended audience(s) of the salesroom are
underscored by the history of the built environment of the commercial
art gallery and auction house. The histories of locales and physical
contexts, both exterior and interior, reveal the changing status of
The formation of these spaces and the strategies of display deployed
therein cannot be separated from the objects circulating through these
spaces. What was the dynamic interaction between objects and spaces, as
well as the dynamic interaction between objects and people facilitated
by such spaces?
This structural triad of objects, people, and space was mediated and
activated by speech acts and texts, such as catalogues. These materials
compose the epistemological origins or building blocks of art history.
Therefore, understanding the salesroom as a social-cultural space
shapes our histories of not only the art market but also the discipline
of art history.
This session seeks innovative papers that study the salesroom as a
social-cultural space, establishing arguments on rigorously analyzed
evidence and carefully considered methodological frameworks, eschewing
an anecdotal approach.
The session is part of the symposium “Creating Markets, Collecting Art:
Celebrating 250 years of Christie’s.” It is organized by Christie’s,
London. Paper proposals should be accompanied by a brief biography and
no more than 250 words in length in total (paper abstract and
biography). The abstracts for the session “The Salesroom as
Socio-Cultural Space,” should be sent to Anne Helmreich:
firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com) and cc.