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Carlyn Mehaffey‐Coy


The process by which art attains value is not easily defined. The integrated network of agents and institutions that judges art and assigns it a price has changed over time. Analysis of the emergence of the dealer-critic system from the academic-salon system in France in the nineteenth century can provide a baseline for mapping the more complex art world system of the present day. The book Canvasses and Careers by Harrison C. White and Cynthia A. White examines institutional changes in the French painting world that allowed the dealer-critic system to emerge in opposition to the salon and the academy. The authors note that the rise of the Impressionist painters coincided with the massive institutional changes that produced the dealer-critic system. The Impressionists' approach to art challenged traditional conventions of subject matter, formal aesthetics, and painting techniques in ways that demanded a new system of valuation. The dealer-critic system afforded artists new ways to have their work publicly recognized, promoted, and sold. The new system structured the art world for decades, but as time and technology have progressed, new methods, people, and forces have been incorporated into the processes of buying and selling art. Changes in market practices must be reassessed as the relationships between art, value, and professional roles within the market have shifted over time. Close analysis of these changes suggests amendments that should be made to the dealer-critic system as presented by White and White. Information gathered from my examination of the contemporary art market and Philadelphia art collectives regarding the assignment of value to art and artist in the modern market served as the basis for a revision and updating of the dealer-critic system.

SECTOR B: Art and Culture of Seeing

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