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The art machine: the case of the Venezuelan art market

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis investigates how symbolic and economic value is generated in the artworld, through a complex system that I have conceptualised as the art machine. This mechanism is made up of artists, dealers and galleries, art schools, critics, auction houses, museum and independent curators, private and corporate collectors as well as foundations and government entities, who instinctively collaborate in creating a name and a market for visual artists. Within this art machine, there exists not only an interdependency between the various functional parts, but also an innate fragility when the local mechanism is subjected to significant changes in its macroenvironment. My research uses this conceptual framework of the art machine to study in detail the workings of the Venezuelan art market, which, with the arrival of the Regime of the late Hugo Chávez, has witnessed significant structural changes, most notably to the existing institutional framework designed to legitimise the visual arts. Despite these recent socio-political changes as the State purposefully sheds a capitalist model of value-creation for the visual arts, the local art machine continues to operate using an alternative institutionalism that allows its continued operation under these adverse conditions. The thesis uses qualitative research methods (semistructured interviews, participant observation, and illustrative photography) in examining the various complexities of the art market in Venezuela. This inductive approach is underpinned by Constructivism, where realities (value, reputation and demand for art) are constructed in the minds of individuals and groups, enabling the research to reconstruct Venezuela’s artworld via a selective sample of key participants, including artists (upcoming and established), commercial galleries, private and public curators, critics, corporate and private collections, and auction houses. As well as providing insights into the field of (arts) marketing, my research highlights the significance of institutionalism to understanding the impact of the macroenvironment on marketing and consumption
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Jul 2014


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