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TU Berlin

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Anina Engelhardt

Graduate Student of the 1st Cohort


Dissertation project

Patterns of Legitimation of Innovations in Contemporary Art

Following the recent boom of the market for contemporary art questions about valuating and evaluating artworks have been tackled.

Heterogenity of classifications - even arbitrarity of judgements - on worth and prevalence of criteria have been argued under the catch phrase "economization" within the field. Replies on this reproach consider structural characteristics of the art world but this constellation can be found in other areas of society as well: an almost ubiquituous semantic of innovation, stability through change and the call for creativity can be found in self-reflexive discourses within fields like politics, science or education.

Typically for the art world is the continual questioning of certainties and matters of course on the level of practices. Therefor the art world is a societal field where a provisional - as it seems - order of knowledge is commonplace. So if orientation towards innovation and pushing boundaries of the symbolic order are substantial characteristics of the production of artworks and following that also of their reception, critique and valuation this very symbolic order turns out to be tenuous in a significant way.

Presently there are not only debates about judgment on contemporary artworks as it became inevitable since the evolvement of Modern Art but also the context of judging and the conditions are being observed reflexivly. Especially significant is the ambivalence of a de-traditionalized self-conception of contemporary art. It is still in constant need of embedding judgments in art history as well as present contexts. 

To recontruct how this dilemma is solved by involved actors like artists themselves, curators, gallerists or collectors is the central aim of the research project. Actors within the art world do make their decisions and judgments under vagrant conditions and with heterogeniuous criteria on contemporary artworks. They institutionalize them with their specific ressources. They have a solution to a problem that is similarily in other areas of society.

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