The art world is a unique and perplexing mechanism to navigate. This course will examine the major facets of the art world and breakdown the essential functions—both the power and responsibility—of major auction houses like Christie’s; Museums, large and small; dealers and gallerists; collectors/philanthropists; critics; and the increasingly powerful roles of artist, art advisor, influencer and publicist. While art history surveys provide the important art historical methodologies, this course will explore the environment in which art is created, exhibited, collected, and commercialized. Lectures will be supplemented by a roundtable discussion with professionals in each field.
*Can be taken as part of the Contemporary Art Business program
Session 1: Introduction to the Ecosystem
In this initial session, we’ll focus on introductions, initial questions and establishing a broad overview to the ecosystem and the entities that will be introduced in greater depth in subsequent weeks.
Session 2: Artists
In this session, we’ll examine the ‘role’ of the artist within the art world ecosystem. We’ll explore artistic fame historically– myths, cult of personalities, etc, that led certain artists to become more well-known than others. We’ll explore the difference between critical reception and market success, as well as how/why artists’ perceived ‘power’ within the art world has grown in recent years.
Session 3: Dealers / Gallerists
In this session, we’ll explore the emergence of the ‘gallerist’ in the 19th century and the importance of figures like Durand-Ruel, Ambroise Vollard, and others in marketing impressionism and modernism to America. We’ll then explore how the role evolved in the 20th century with masterminds like Leo Castelli, and later Larry Gagosian, ultimately giving way to the age of the mega gallery and the closure of many midsize galleries.
Session 4: Private Collectors
In this session, we’ll explore the role art patronage has played historically (the Catholic Church in Italy, the various monarchs in much of Europe, etc.), as well as key 20th century collectors (Peggy Guggenheim, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and others) who left an indelible impact on the arts through their collecting and philanthropy. We’ll explore the role of the collector today, and the power of people to shape markets for young and emerging artists.
Session 5: Auction Houses
In this session, we’ll look at the increasing dominance of auction houses in the art market – which houses are dominant, who the power players are within each house, the hierarchy of regional and thematic focuses, recent auction results/news/scandals, prominent collections coming to auction soon, etc.
Session 6: Art Fairs
In this session, we’ll examine the role of the art fair in the art market and how that has evolved from the advent of the first fair in 1969. We’ll define and discuss regional art fairs (Seattle Art Fair, Dallas Art Fair, etc.); specialized/thematic art fairs (Outside Art Fair, 1:54); and of course, global art fairs (Art Basel, Frieze).
Session 7: Museums (Directors, Curators & Boards)
In this session, we’ll look at the contemporary art museum – its role in shaping the Modernist Canon (MoMA) and its waning, but still important participation, in anointing the next generation of art world stars. We’ll discuss some of the major issues facing museums today such as an aging donor base; criticisms over performative diversity, equity and inclusion programs; protests against the
perceived ‘dirty money’ of board members like the Sacklers, Warren Kanders, and the Russian oligarchs, as well as corporate sponsors like BP.
Session 8: Critics, Publicists & Influencers
In this session, we’ll learn about the important critics who shaped the modernist canon; the importance of critics like Roberta Smith in ascribing language to Minimalism and subsequent movements; and the changing field – indeed what many believe to be the decline—of arts journalism. We’ll also explore the rising importance of social media influencers in the art world, in shaping public interest in artists, as well as the increasing power of the publicist in shaping the narrative/messaging around the arts.
Session 9: Art Advisors, NFT/Crypto Markets & Other Changing Tides
In this session, we’ll explore the new prominence of the art advisor in the art market, as well as the advent of the NFT marketplace. We’ll discuss any remaining questions from previous sessions and speculate together about changing tides and new trends we are observed in the art world.
Session 10: Roundtable Discussion
For this final session, Rebecca Taylor will moderate a roundtable discussion with key players in the contemporary art world. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions about the state of the market and navigating the art world today.
Rebecca Taylor has dedicated her life to the arts, in professional leadership capacities at MoMA PS1, the Getty, MOCA, and other arts organizations, as well as in her personal life as a patron and council member of the Tate, Guggenheim, MoMA, Royal Academy, and numerous other arts organizations.
Professionally, Rebecca utilizes her extensive experience in the art world to advise clients — including museums, galleries, art fairs and luxury brands activating in the arts — on major strategic issues facing their organizations during these challenging times. Utilizing her deep understanding and expertise in the arts, Rebecca audits brands (internally and externally) and develops bespoke solutions to address their specific challenges, as well as strategic recommendations and holistic strategies for achieving their short and long-term objectives efficiently and effectively.
Prior to launching her own consultancy, Rebecca worked as EVP of FITZ & CO, a strategic communications and marketing firm specializing in arts + culture. In that capacity, she spearheaded global strategies and international campaigns for the agency’s clients, including Alserkal (Dubai); Almine Rech; ARoS Museum (Denmark); Art Basel (Basel | Hong Kong | Miami Beach); ART021 (Shanghai); BMW Group Culture; Faurschou Foundation (Beijing | Copenhagen | NYC); Saudi Art Council; Sharjah Art Foundation; and Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.), among others.