The Contemporary Art Gallery: Display, Power and Privilege
Everyone who looks at contemporary art is familiar with galleries. But visual features of these mysterious temples tend to be taken for granted. The basic purpose of this book is to enliven the reader’s latent knowledge of galleries, including architectural motifs, the intended impression that is conveyed to the visitor, and human interactions within them.
The contemporary art world system includes artists’ studios, art galleries, homes of collec-tors and public art museums. To comprehend art, one needs to understand these settings and how it travels through them. The contemporary art gallery is a store where luxury goods are sold. What distinguishes it from stores selling other luxuries – upscale clothing, jewelry, and posh cars – is the nature of the merchandise. While much has been written about the art, this book uncovers the secretive culture of the galleries themselves.
The gallery is the public site where art is first seen – anyone can come and look for free. This store, a commercial site, is where aesthetic judgments are made. Art’s value is determined in this marketplace by the consensus formed by public opinion, professional re-viewers and sales. The gallery, then, is the nexus of the enigmatic, billion dollar art world, and it is that space that is dissected here.
The first chapter briefly describes the beginnings of the present contemporary art gallery. The second presents the experience of gallery going, presenting summary accounts of vis-its to some contemporary galleries. The third expands and extends that analysis, with de-tailed close up descriptions and comparative evaluations of many diverse contemporary galleries, in order to identify the challenges provided by these marvelous places. Then the fourth chapter indicates why, in the near future, due to the proliferation of myriad art fairs and online platforms extant today, such galleries might disappear altogether.
David Carrier has taught philosophy in Pittsburgh and art history in Cleveland. A widely published art critic, his reviews have appeared in Artcritical, Artforum, Brooklyn Rail, and the Burlington Magazine. He has written books on Baudelaire’s art criticism, comic strips, the methodology of art history, Sean Scully’s paintings, the art museum, and a world art history. His most recent publication, co-authored with Joachim Pissarro, is Wild Art (2013).
Darren Jones is a US-based critic and artist from Dunfermline, Scotland. His writing has been published in Artslant, ArtUS, Brooklyn Rail, Artcritical, Artforum.com, and Glasstire. His work as an artist and curator has been covered in Scotland on Sunday, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Artforum.com, Artslant, Artcritical and ArtUS.
"The Contemporary Art Gallery is a small but well-stocked treasury of first-hand observations by someone who’s spent a lot of time in art galleries, but who has retained enough critical distance to see them with a certain objectivity."
Barry Schwabsky Hyperallergic.com, 27.05.2017
"This book gives a clear overview of how the contemporary gallery functions as a vital component of the art world for museums, collectors and the public, displaying art for free to the public, while functioning as businesses."
Leeza Chebotarev Gagosian Gallery
"The Contemporary Art Gallery completes the illuminating trilogy began by Carrier with Principles of Art History Writing and Museum Skepticism: A History of the Display of Art in Public Galleries. The book offers new observations about galleries: how they have increased both our connection to and our estrangement from a personal experience of art in our consuming, global visual culture. It is essential reading for artists, scholars, students, and art lovers."
Phong Bui The Brooklyn Rail
"David Carrier and Darren Jones have initiated an important conversation about the effect of physical and social space on our understanding of works of contemporary art. Their decision to take on the ubiquitous aesthetics of the commercial gallery is at once courageous and provocative. Reader beware!"
Richard R. Brettell, Ph.D.
Founding Director, The Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History, and the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair, University of Texas at Dallas
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