Art as Commodities / Commodities as Art: An Interdisciplinary Conference

Friday 14 June 2019, 9.30AM

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‘Cultural entities typical of the culture industry are no longer also commodities, they are commodities through and through’. Theodor Adorno, “Culture Industry Reconsidered” (1967).

When art makes the headlines, it is usually about money. In 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for over $450 million at Christie’s New York. Just how can a painting be worth more than a penthouse on Fifth Avenue?

A propensity for truck, barter and exchange is one of visual art’s defining characteristics. This conference will explore the conceptual interrelationships between art and commodities, encompassing a range of media from paintings to artefacts.

Are artworks ‘commodities through and through’, or are they economically exceptional? The brand equity of a Picasso or Fabergé, compounded with their provenance or “social life”, suggest so. As desirable objects, artworks are often meta-desirable. The Paston Treasure is a mirror of luxury that was itself luxurious to own. Mundane objects, meanwhile, have a history of aesthetic transfiguration, especially materials of the craft. Did artists possess a kind of Midas touch?

This conference will demonstrate the centrality of markets to art’s modern cultural ascendancy, while also recasting art objects as bodies of knowledge and vehicles of cultural exchange through networks of global trade.

Co-organised by Adam Sammut (University of York), Simon Spier (University of Leeds) and Apurba Chatterjee (University of Sheffield). Please send a short speaker profile and an abstract of 300 words maximum to art.as.commodities@gmail.com by 29 March.

Generously funded by WRoCAH, CREMS and ALCS.

Location: Berrick Saul Building, University of York