The Global Art World, Inc. : On the globalization of contemporary art

Abstract: This study examines certain segments of the art world-system in which geographical distances seemed to vanishing as a result of faster and more intense interaction levels. This particular art world-system has been conceptualized in contradictory ways. It has been called a “global village”, and has been seen as homogenized and diversified, as well as both expanding, and contracting. Experiences of mutual understanding and shared artistic values underly the possibilities of particular art world expanding. This premise was identified as a “western art concept”, so-called institutional art theory. However, the expectations of audiences, critics, and artists are changing. The widening cultural labour-market supplies new and unfamiliar historical references to the authoritative literature and artworks of the “western art concept”. I have sought out both shared and diverse authorities through case studies of contemporary art biennials held in Venice, Havana, Istanbul, and Kwangju, as well as the itinerant Manifesta. All of the above constitute an important labour-market for the increasing numbers of freelancing art world professionals.The thesis derived from these examples is that the identification of the art concept as a western phenomenon, which is based on claiming the origins and even the ownership of practices represented within historical (historicist) institutions, is untenable. The avant-garde art world, in contrast, attempts to globally break with art concepts. It seeks out resistance to art world discourse, that which sits on the walls of educational institutions, museums, and the knowledge represented therein. Art worlds, however, are connected regionally. They are not stable, and are even less identifiably western. It is thus difficult to historicize the art concept in order to create this resistance. Nevertheless, it may be legitimate to attempt this, in order to provide a means of inspection and comparison. Individuals within the art world-system are nevertheless interpelled as subjects of history in reference to institutionalized precedents. This calls for a re-writing of art history, taking into account multiple discontinuities instead of relying on chronology.

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