Art, inequality and social change Supported by the LSE Marshall Institute
This three-month project will consider the challenges to the art world, including public and private galleries, and museums, posed by intensifying social and economic inequalities. Contemporary art practices have sought to democratise artistic display over the past two decades, to limit the association with 'highbrow' culture to encourage diversity in artistic form, and to encourage a wider range of audiences to engage with art.
However, although democratising moves have been effective in several respects, there has been less attention to the way that the rise of the super-rich and the accumulation of wealth and capital might be an issue for artistic exploration and curation. Indeed, there is evidence that the contemporary art market is in fact dominated by the investment potential of art works for the super-rich, and hence becomes hooked into the arena of super-rich cultures which may affect the capacity of art to act as a critical public good. This is a matter of great public concern, especially as it could be associated with the renewal of cultural elitism to go alongside growing economic inequality.
To address this issue, the project will explore how the practices of curators and artists in a series of leading London galleries are aware of these challenges, and to bring to light their repertoires for relating to the challenge of accumulating inequality. A series of interviews will be conducted with curators of public and private art galleries, as well as with a number of artists exploring current social issues. This pilot project will take an important initial step which will prepare the way for a larger project, whilst also performing a much needed function in its own right.
Professor Nicola Lacey
Professor Mike Savage