Art world

Art world

The art world is composed of all the people involved in the production, commission, preservation, promotion, criticism, and sale of art. Howard S. Becker describes it as "the network of people whose cooperative activity, organized via their joint knowledge of conventional means of doing things, produce(s) the kind of art works that art world is noted for" (Becker, 1982). Sarah Thornton describes it as "a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a belief in art. They span the globe but cluster in art capitals like New York, London, Los Angeles, and Berlin."[1]

The notion of the singular art world is problematic, since Becker [2] and others have shown, art worlds are multiplicities, they are globally scattered, constantly in flux, and typically operating independently of each other: there really is no center to the art world any more. In her analysis of the "Net Art World" (referring to network-aided art or net art Amy Alexander states " had a movement, at the very least it had coherence, and although it aimed to subvert the art world, eventually its own sort of art world formed around it. It developed a culture, hype and mystique through lists and texts; it had a center, insiders, outsiders, even nodes. This is of course not a failure; this is unavoidable: groups form; even anarchism is an institution." [3] Art worlds can exist at the local and regional levels, as hidden or obscured subcultures, via primary and secondary art markets, through gallery circuits, around design movements, and more esoterically as shared or perceived experiences.

The one globalized, all-encompassing art world does exist---but it does so as a myth; more accurately, there are multiplicities of intersecting, overlapping, self-similar art worlds, each expressing different views of the world as they see it.

New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz has referred to William Powhida's and Jade Townsend's drawing "Art Basel Miami Beach Hooverville" as "a great big art-world stinkbomb."[4]



Simon Frith describes three art worlds present in the music industry: the art music world, folk music world, and commercial music world.[5] Timothy Taylor (2004) associates these worlds with three popular music genres: rock, rap, and pop, respectively. [6]


  1. ^ Thornton 2008
  2. ^ Becker, Howard S. Art Worlds. Berkley: University of California Press, 1982. ISBN 0-520-05218-8. Cited in Sanjeck (1999).
  3. ^ Alexander, Amy. net art history (2001)
  4. ^ Saltz, Jerry. "William Powhida Is Making Fun of Me, And I Love It". New York Magazine. March 9, 2010.
  5. ^ Frith, Simon. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-674-66195-8. Cited in Taylor (2004)
  6. ^ Taylor, Timothy D. Bad World Music in Washburne, Christopher J. and Derno, Maiken (eds.) (2004). Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415943663)


  • Sanjeck, David. "Institutions." Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1999. ISBN 0-631-21263-9
  • Thornton, Sarah. Seven Days in the Art World New York: WW Norton, 2008.

See also

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