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'The Elephant in the Room': The Art Market in Art History 18151945

Abigail Harrison Moore
School of Fine Art, University of Leeds

Mark Westgarth
School of Art and Design, University of Salford

Since its emergence in the opening decades of the nineteenth century the modern art market has been a significant structuring element in the discourse of art history. Perceived by many to be at the margins of the discipline, the art market has been the historiographical 'Elephant in the Room', and yet the market remains an important nexus, connecting the academy and the museum. The ways in which objects are classified, displayed and valourised in this triumvirate draws attention to their mutual involvement in the construction of taste. The market has acted as a catalyst and a core driver in the symbiotic values structures of both the production and the consumption of art.

This session invites a consideration of the intersections, the formal and informal discursive spaces, where the market and art history meet and overlap: Sites and Spaces of Consumption (the shop, the auction room, the displays and exhibitions); Personalities and Players (the dealer, the historian and curator, and the consumer); Texts and Taxonomies (the catalogue, the guidebook, the price index and the art history book), as well as a consideration of the artworks and objects that are the focus of the dialectic between the market and art history. The session is specifically interested not only in the market for fine art proper, i.e. paintings and sculpture, but also in those objects variously defined as decorative art/material culture.