A talk of interest to COR community…
DISCIPLINING AUDIENCES: THE DEMAND FOR DISINTERESTEDNESS IN THE MARKET FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
SPEAKER: James Riley
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management
DATE: Monday, November 18
TIME: 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
WHERE: SB1 5200
Art worlds have strong norms that enjoin artists to avoid the naked pursuit of profit and instead affect an air of “disinterestedness” (Bourdieu 1993). But why might art dealers and collectors similarly face such norms? This paper draws on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork to examine the puzzle of why galleries discipline collectors –who provide much-needed financial capital – for appearing too motivated by profit. The fieldwork also suggests a paradoxical resolution. Galleries enforce conformity to the norm of disinterestedness among collectors as part of an array of tactics they deploy to “protect” their artists from price volatility that could depress demand for the artist’s work. Although galleries framed such discipline as a moral imperative, a key implication of this study is that enforcing a norm that disavows extrinsic rewards such as fortune and fame ultimately supports a profitable business and investment strategy.