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An institutional politics of place: rethinking the critical function of art in times of growing inequality

Upton-Hansen, Chris, Kolbe, Kristina and Savage, Mike ORCID: 0000-0003-4563-9564 (2020) An institutional politics of place: rethinking the critical function of art in times of growing inequality. Cultural Sociology. ISSN 1749-9755

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1749975520964357


This article reflects on the current status of art’s critical power in a world of intensifying economic inequality. We document how the art world is saturated with economic imperatives that limit the power of conventional artistic critique to meaningfully contest economic instrumentalism. Such imperatives also constrain both artistic and curatorial choices, with profound implications for questions of representation. Informed by interviews with artists, curators and managers of leading art institutions in London, we outline an emergent politics that acknowledges the way that inequalities are sustained and accumulate over long periods of time and is committed to addressing ‘historic wrongs’. We argue that an especially powerful dimension here is geographical, with institutions reconsidering their own historical and contemporary locations as a means of subverting universalising narratives that mask dominant power. We suggest that this focus on spatiality presents a promising approach to addressing contemporary inequalities in the art world by being able to productively link concerns around representation to a critical recognition of the spatially located impact of economic inequality.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2020 10:27
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 07:54

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