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Selling art to the world in Chelsea

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This paper explores the dynamic interaction that occurs between large-scale social processes, urban development and the production of artistic expression and meaning through an analysis of art and urban change in the West Chelsea district of New York City. I begin my analysis with a discussion of specific works of art and expand to the local and global context to which these works respond and help to construct. Both urban space and artistic production, consumption and the social meaning attached to art by artists, critics, audiences and other art world actors have felt the impact of the turn to free market policies and ideology that have attended global economic restructuring and the rapid pace of globalisation. At the same time, art's new role as an engine of urban commerce and the accompanying expansion of the art market have helped to shape city districts like West Chelsea and have left their mark on the work that is exhibited and sold there. My analysis integrates a close study of two works of art exhibited in West Chelsea, interviews and other ethnographic data and recent literature on the arts and urban restructuring and the perspective of critical theory. I also provide photographic documentation of social interaction and the built environment of West Chelsea as it evolved in response to the expansion of the art worlds there. A secondary aim of this research is to contribute to a larger discussion about the social role and critical capacities of art in today's social, economic and political climate.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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