Centre for the Study of the Art and Antiques Market

The Substance of Symbolic Value – at Henry Moore Institute

The Substance of Symbolic Value:
Museums, Collections, & the Appearance of Value in ArtA day of discussion with Nizan Shaked (California State University Long Beach), hosted by the Centre for Critical Materialist Studies in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Arts and Antiques Markets (University of Leeds).**Please register via Eventbrite**: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-substance-of-symbolic-value-museums-collections-the-appearance-of-value-in-art-tickets-43713792129

*Scroll down for link to readings*

In the morning, Nizan will give the following lecture:

‘The Substance of Symbolic Value: Museums, Collections, and the Appearance of Value in Art’

Despite recent fluctuations, the market for contemporary art has increased incrementally since the late 20th century, and has been at an all time historic high since the beginning of the 21st century. Art institutions are intertwined in this trend, with record numbers of new museums dedicated to contemporary art opening across the globe, and established universal survey museums turning over more resources to exhibit and collect the current. Yet, while historical artworks and collectibles have inheritance and rarity to guarantee their worth, what is it, beyond the market, that can insure the prices of contemporary art? Although art prices are determined on the market (auction houses, galleries, fairs, and other formats of art dealing), this paper makes the claim that the network of museums, nonprofit art spaces, and alternative spaces are a necessary condition in facilitating the market. I focus on collecting institutions, arguing that it is the unit of “the collection” that guarantees the symbolic value of art, giving it the power to siphon and hold objectified abstract labor. This paper will use recent work on the value of art, with that of Diane Elson and Ann E. Davis, to describe the interaction between symbolic and monetary value and theorize its historical specificity in relation to the establishment of money as a general equivalent. Particularly, I ask: what was the substance of an object’s worth during the development of European mercantilism, how is it different under capitalism, has the monetization and financialization of art affected its flow, and what are the implications for the art institution today?

The afternoon discussion will centre around four texts:

Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Forms of Capital’, from J.E. Richardson (ed.), Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education (Greenwood Press, 1986), pp. 241-58.

Nizan Shaked, ‘Art and Value – Museum Collections as Commons’, forthcoming issue of Historical Materialism, and published here: http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/blog/art-and-value-reviewed-nizan-shaked

Beverley Best, ‘Distilling a Value Theory of Ideology from Volume Three of Capital’, Historical Materialism 23.3 (2015) 101–141.

Ann E. Davis, ‘The New “Voodoo Economics”: Fetishism and the Public/Private Divide’, Review of Radical Political Economics (2012) 45(1) 42–58.

These texts, plus three supplementary readings and the PROGRAMME, can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nqw-7uHeCXyKjgTEx9BqB68w3nKYeU_3

 

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