The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Research Week - Navigating the Cultural Ecosystem of Art Fairs.

Jennifer Jankauskas is herself a curator of contemporary art, with her research focussing around the impact of the global economy and society upon the collecting ability of snall and mid-sized contemporary art museums.

She has taken a particularly interesting approach to investigating this, partaking in participant observation at Art Fairs. These provide a way into seeing that the art market revolves not purely around advertising and sales, but also the social capital which people can bring to, and develop at, these events.

As a practitioner herself, she had to be very self-reflective in this approach. Siting herself somewhere between participant-as-observer and observer-as-participant, she has to remember to take a step outside her normal activities, and assess them from a critical standpoint - never an easy thing to do.

Studying three major art fairs in the US, Art Basel Miami Beach, The Armoury Show New York, and Art Chicago/Next Art Fair she points out the importance of place and space in the interactions which occur within these events and the relationships which are built. Most are housed in convention centres, though they are often decorated to look like galleries. But you can't escape the buildings and their architectural set up. These are not just showcases however, for dialogues and panel discussions also occur.

There are, too, many actors within this environment, not just dealers, but artists, curators, consultants, established and new collectors, site managers, the public, the media and art students. The reasons why these actors attend are as manifold as they, incorporating knowledge, prestige, and purchasing - for all of this helps to facilitate the central impetus of sales generation. Art continues to sell, even in this uncertain economic climate. Collectors come with the purpose of buying. But museums are often priced out, and collectors often ignore smaller institutions for the prestige of giving to a large, well known establishment, or creating their own museum.

Something I found fascinating about this project is how it gets under the skin of the art world, and shows, from an insider's perspective, what lies behind the surface appearence of glamour and power. There is a lot of investigating to be done here, and a lot of potential for really deep thought. Looking forward to hearing more!

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