9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN02 Sociology of the Arts

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Being An Artist I Building II, C6.08

Art Dealers and Museum Directors: Friction at the Boundaries

In the first half of the 20th century, a new order arose in the art world that continued to develop throughout the rest of the century. The mechanisms of achieving success for the artists did not experience a radical change; however they underwent a transformation within the very paradigm of modern art. The way to achieve fame was and still is related to the interaction of artists with the legitimizing agents, commonly called mediation.

We look at a representative example from a particular moment of modern art -the middle of the 20th century during the period of institutionalization of the vanguards- through the relationship established between Paul Rosenberg, Pablo Picasso's art dealer, and Alfred Barr, the first director of the first major modern art museum in the world, the MoMA of New York. The way in which both agents challenged the organization of the first retrospective of the artist is a model of the struggles, tensions, and exchanges of power between two phases on the road to the modern artist's success: the informal, represented by the first critics, dealers, and collectors, and the consolidation, exemplified by the first museum directors and the authorized specialists responsible for writing the original monographs about artists and modern styles.

Through the analysis of this critical moment and its peculiarities and frictions, we propose to undertake a comparative analysis with a case of the social organization of the art world in Barcelona. If today, in fact, both access to fame and relationships between and with legitimizing agents have experienced significant changes, above all related to the velocity in accumulation of reputation, we hypothesize that the avenues to power and the increase in capital dedication by the legitimizing agents continue to be the reasons for access to success by current artists. This comparative analysis will permit us to establish an evolutionary line that leads to a hypothesis of the reality of organization of art in the present time.