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The financialization of art: a sociological encounter

Upton-Hansen, Christopher (2018) The financialization of art: a sociological encounter. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The financialization of art describes a diffuse series of changes in how the art market operates, how it is rendered visible and thinkable, why buyers and firms enter and exit it, and how they profit from it or not. It is a proliferation of the nodes through which the value of art can be circulated as capital; an elongation, diversification, and acceleration of its life as such. This research, proceeding from a half-decade immersion into the ‘artworld’ and its interpreters ‘in the wild’ (through press articles, reports, conferences, art events, published interviews, corporate white papers & documents, art data, industry publications, and econometric research on art) is an attempt to come to terms with this plurality. It stages a sociological encounter with the substance of art and finance across a series of key contexts: the financialization of the late capitalist economy and dynamics of wealth and income inequality; changes in the traditional art market such as the rise of contemporary art, the privatization of the endorsement cycle, the industrialization of cultural capital, and the emergence of the online art market; and longue durée shifts in dominant conceptions of art and artistic work which continue to avec the configuration of the market in important ways. Doing so, it posits key links between financialization, inequality, and taxes; between the devaluation of institutional means of assessment and the rise of a financial episteme; and between post-modernity and the mollification of ‘hostile worlds’ positions. Throughout, this thesis also draws on sociologies of markets, quantification and worth to suggest that, given the partiality and contested nature of financialization’s empirical and practical foundations (not to mention its lacklustre track-record), the real import of financialization may be epistemic and ontological. Indeed, its shortcomings notwithstanding, it has nevertheless succeeded in creating new communities of interest and roping in expanding fields of expertise to its cause, thereby orienting real intervention. These various dynamics contribute to a sociological mapping of art’s financialization.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Christopher Upton-Hansen
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Savage, Mike

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