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15 - Artists and the Market: From Leonardo and Titian to Warhol and Hirst

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

David W. Galenson
Affiliation:
University of Chicago
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Summary

Introduction

There's a real sense that when you start quantifying artistic output in dollars and cents, those things are tangents to what we really should be talking about.

Michael Rooks, curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

In an era in which many previously forbidden subjects, including race, sex, religion, and drugs, have become favored themes for public discussion, the nexus between money and art remains perhaps the last taboo topic for many art scholars and critics. The extent of this prudish distaste may account for the relative neglect of a striking recent innovation by a number of important conceptual artists, who have decisively broken with a tradition that has ruled the art world since the Renaissance. A brief history of the relationship between artists and the market can serve to place this innovation in perspective.

The Renaissance Ideal

A mind intent on gain will rarely obtain the reward of fame with posterity.

Leon Battista Alberti, 1435

During the Middle Ages, artists were considered craftsmen. Painters' guilds were first founded in Italy late in the thirteenth century, and from there this practice spread throughout Europe. Sculptors and architects were also organized in guilds, along with masons and bricklayers. As the social and economic status of artists improved, objections to guild supervision appeared. In 1434, for example, Filippo Brunelleschi refused to pay his dues to the guild of building workers, and the guild's officials had him thrown in prison.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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