For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!

Institutions of Art: Theory, Practice, History, Critique


Dr. Johan F. Hartle

Members of the research group

dr. E.S. Bergvelt
C.A.H.H. Bertram
dr. J. Boomgaard
F. Chiaravalloti MSc
dr. C.A.J.C. Delhaye
dr. R. Esner
dr. S.E. Fotiadi
dr. J.F. Hartle
M.J. Jonker MA
C. Koerts MA
prof.dr. E.A. Kuitert
dr. N.T.J. Laan
dr. G.M. Langfeld
dr. G.M. v.d. Roemer
dr. O.K. Sooudi
dr. M.L. Wilders
drs. M.J.N. Stols - Witlox
dr. A.A. Witte
External Members:
P. Gielen (RUG)
N. de Leij (UvA)
O. Velthuis (FMG UvA)

Description of the research programme of the research group

In this research group Institutions of art will be studied from four different but interrelated perspectives. First, from a theoretical point of view, the institutional theory of art will be brought into dialogue with other contemporary approaches such as theories of practice (artistic practices), of material culture (the artwork as an object), and of action (agency). Systematic analyses of these sociological and philosophical theories will be undertaken, and their relative merits for the understanding of art will be discussed.
Second, from the point of view of practice or production, the institutional reflexivity of modern and contemporary art movements will be analysed. Since the advent of modernism in the nineteenth century, self-reflexivity (and self-critique) has been viewed as a specific characteristic of artistic practice and the formation of artistic identity (the “practice” of being an artist). The place and role of the work of art as both a material object and a performance, and of the artist as a function, within different institutional practices will be an important theme investigated from this perspective. Finally, the group will also take the artistic (or practice-based) research currently being carried out by artists in, or in affiliation with, universities as an object of study.
Third, art institutions themselves will be studied from an historical and contemporary point of view. The foundation and continuing development of academies of art, museums, galleries, corporate collections, theatres, archives, etc. will be studied and discussed from a diachronic perspective. What did the institutionalization of artistic practices mean for the development of art (history) and the artist and their relations to other practices (political, scientific, religious, etc.)?
Finally, institutions of art will be studied from a cultural-analytic and critical point of view. As mentioned above, the self-reflexivity of modern and contemporary art can be seen as a form of criticism of its own and other cultural institutions. Does the institutionalization of art limit the artist’s possibilities or can (and does) art escape from its institutional framework? In other words, is institutional critique possible?
None of these perspectives has priority over the others. Moreover, they are deeply interconnected. In order to arrive at a thorough and complete overview of art institutions and their various functions, the systematic comparison of sociological and philosophical theories of art will be complemented by historical approaches to art institutions, artistic production, the artist and works of art, and a critical view of contemporary society.

Envisaged results

In addition to the projects of individual members (dissertations, books, conferences, and grant proposals) already underway – and for which the seminar meetings (see below) will offer a platform for the presentation of work in progress and results – the research group’s activities will also lead to individual and collective publications in international peer-reviewed journals, anthologies, etc. The projects and publications will be realized in close collaboration with artistic and/or other non-academic institutions (foundations, exhibition spaces, museums, art academies).

Work plan and time schedule

The projected time span of the research group is 5 years (2013-2018) and, if possible, beyond. The seminar series (reading group/colloquium) will begin in September 2013 and take place every four to six weeks. Funding will be applied for from national and international organizations. In 2015 the group plans to organize an international conference. The book projects envisaged will be realized by (the end of) 2016-17.

Societal relevance

Dramatic changes in the social organization of the art world have taken place in the last few decades. The most obvious and most important dimensions of these changes are:
– The globalization of art and the artist (through emerging art markets, “Biennialization,” etc.)
– The increased importance of corporate art collections (both on a national and global level)
– Changes in the nature and function of the museum, in particular its transformation from an institution dedicated to aesthetic contemplation and education to an economically driven arena of spectacle
– Massive austerity measures (particularly in the Netherlands)
The research group can, on the one hand, put these dramatic changes in the institutional landscape of art into a historical perspective. On the other hand, and against the background of the research group’s theoretical focus, it can be investigated in how far these developments affect the very nature and concept of art.

This research group is active in the following constellations: