A cultural sociology of emotions in the art market
sociology university of plymouth plymouth, uk
This paper deals with two related key issues in the sociology of art markets: how to analyse the practices of art market actors and the role of art market objects within a sociological perspective. In order to address this issue the paper first argues that analyses of commodification no longer captures the various and different ways in which the art object has become the centre of epistemic, meaning producing practices. Thus rather than being the repository of commodity values (aesthetic, economic) assign to it by agents in fields, or art worlds, for example, the art object needs to be conceptualised in a two-fold process: by focusing on how art market actors generate and assign value to the art work, but also by exploring how the art object can take upon the role of generating and shaping the practices of art market actors by arising specific emotions and feelings, e.g. trust, anxiety, excitement. The paper draws upon empirical data collected in three market sectors, primary (commercial galleries), secondary (art dealers) and tertiary (auction houses) to compare the various mechanisms through which the art object generates and shapes art market practices.
The analytical approach used in this paper is twofold: 1) cultural sociology in its focus to meaning-making processes, is particularly suitable to the study of how the art object becomes the repository of meaning, and it also orientates market actors towards acting in specific ways. 2) This approach will be complemented by drawing upon work in the sociology of emotions which stresses the need to see emotions, not only as socially constructed, but also as generating specific types of action. The paper will conclude by arguing that a cultural sociology of emotions is a novel analytical framework that can inform future research in the sociology of art markets.