Art and Economy

Art and Economy – Art History and the Economization of Cultura

Session chairs:

Susanna Aaltonen, Ph. D., Curator at the Dept. of Art History, University of Helsinki, Finland

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Leena Svinhufvud, Ph.D., Postdoctoral researcher, Dept. of Art History, University of Helsinki, Finland

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The Portrait as a Commodity in Early 20th Century Finland

Tutta Palin

University of Turku, Finland

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Within the modernizing art field of the early 20th century, two apparently contradictory yet interdependent reactions to the challenges presented by societal transformations were simultaneously in formation: on the one hand, a radicalization of an art for art’s sake aesthetic that bypassed the financial side of art altogether, and on the other, a new kind of understanding of the artist as an independent entrepreneur, liberated from traditional institutional authorities by economic activity. For analysing this polarization of attitudes, the portrait is a prime genre.

My examples are the Finnish painters Hugo Backmansson (1860–1953) who with his group portraits and portrait series of societies of men, positioned himself as an associate of a local economic elite; Ingrid Ruin (1881–1956) who turned her self-portraits in which she paraphrased Anders Zorn’s provocatively sexualized ethnic female types (dalkullor), into a successful yet compromising commodity; and Ester Helenius (1875–1955) who kept a careful sales record of her oeuvre, including portraits. Thus, in this paper, economic value will be analyzed as an integral part of the dynamics of a non-official, predominantly bourgeois Arriére-garde fraction of the artfield that should not be forgotten when drawing the outlines of the national art scene (cf. Adamson & Norris, eds, 2009).


Corporate Art on the Public Scene

Teija Luukkanen-Hirvikoski

University of Jyväskylä, Finland

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Business has nowadays diverse interest and influence to the production, displaying, and financing of visual arts. In this paper I discuss corporate patronage focusing on the public displays of private collections and the influences of other long-term deals between the business and art. The paper and case studies are based on the research for my PhD-thesis in art history.

Business gains a lot from linking itself to fine arts because of the symbolic meanings associated to art. The key motives of corporate patronage can be traced back to the corporate image, branding, and corporate social responsibility, which can be either a tool for marketing or true action of corporate citizenship. (Carroll 1993; Martorella 1990)

Since the1980s, in many countries there have been changes in cultural policy towards the privatisation of art (Wu 2003). When the art institution is involved with corporate art programmes, the fear of losing artistic or curatorial freedom is a burning issue. But there are other aspects as well. There are certain benefits for young or regional artists, and art museums. Companies with employees with education in the arts also question the boundaries of the art world. To which world these art experts belong? Within the scope of corporate patronage, I suggest to soften or even discard the polarization of art and economics. Corporate art interventions must be viewed critically but instead of polarization I would rather like to speak about two different organizational cultures with different values and objectives.


Galleries and artists in the art market. Soviet and post-Soviet Lithuania case.

Kristina Civinskienė

Department of contemporary Lithuanian culture, Lithuanian culture research institute (LCRI)

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The relation between artists and the art market in post-Soviet countries experienced a rapid change in 1989-90. New institutional players appeared in the field: galleries, new art schools. Political and social interests of the artists and their socio-economic status were transformed as well. In spite of the changes, some artists have maintained a high position in the field.

Looking back at the artists’ strategies in the late Soviet period, we can see a paradox. In Soviet times the art works had to be sold in the Artists’ Union Galleries, which maintained the monopoly until 1989. However, there was also an unofficial art market (that is: not legitimized by the government) and these artists – not members of Artists’ union – denied the official style and also had their customers.

This report will attempt to identify the functions of the informal art market and its change in post-Soviet Lithuania. The main focus will be on the artists involved in this market, their engagement and relations with customers. The research will be based on interviews with artists and collectors. The sales books of Artists’ Union Galleries will also be taken into account. The focus will be placed on economic and social analysis of artists’ behaviour (Bourdieu, 1993; Galenson, 2006). I will also seek to determine how the artists dealt with the official Artists’ Union as patronage institution (DiMaggio, 1987).


Tracing Trends: Thirty Decades of Success and Failure for 1980s New York Based Artists

Liz Kim

The Courtauld Institute of Art

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How do trends, which have both economic and cultural implications, function within art worlds for contemporary art? The key may lie in understanding the relationship between economy of symbolic and cultural capital and the economy of monetary capital, which is notoriously difficult to characterize. This has become especially problematic in the past four decades, because this relationship became more complicated owing to vastly increasing speed and volume of global exchange and cultural consumption. The current systems of contemporary art also reflect this growing complexity.

This paper focuses on a number of artists who participated in the 1983 Whitney Biennial and were active in the 1980s New York art scene, and it examines how these artists, such as Cindy Sherman and Julian Schnabel, fared over time within our economic and cultural memories as a means to understand trends within the art worlds. Based on sociological models of recent art market systems, I chose three different ways of gauging trends: art industry publications, a regional newspaper, and auction results. Using a comparative method, I trace the changes in trends over the past thirty years. Of the artists who participated in the biennial, some fared better than others, and some disappeared from art history and the public consciousness altogether. My research highlights the hidden economy of attention inherent in art world systems.