ARTS & SOCIETIES
 

LETTER OF SEMINAR 6

Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po

 
 
 

New Publics, Between Utopia and Marketing



Vincent Huguet and David Cascaro
New publics, between utopia and marketing

 


Editorial Director: Laurence Bertrand Dorléac
Editorial Assistant: Elodie Antoine
Translator: David Ames Curtis

PREVIOUS LETTER

THE INFLUENCE OF THE SAINT-SIMONIANS AND THE IDEA OF ART IN THE VANGUARD OF THE SOCIAL REFORM

BODY MORALITY

DANDIES

The Model Child

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE USEFUL

Photographs by amateurs

The market, at the start




 
EDITORIAL

 


        Art for Whom ?
 
        The notion of the public has been considerably altered by the movement toward rationalization, and even democratization, that began in the second half of the twentieth century. In this regard, sociology has accustomed us to think in terms of the plural rather than of the singular, especially since Pierre Bourdieu and his team undertook their 1964-1965 museum investigation. Thanks to the results they recorded in L’Amour de l’art, we know that there does not exist a single public but, rather, several of them, and even a nonpublic that never goes to see exhibitions at all. This study also revealed the immense social inequality involved in people’s access to art works in museums. The role of the family was determinative in the transmission of cultural capital, and no one could seriously believe in innateness when it comes to enjoyment. The museum as the very site for taking pleasure in art was also the temple in which exclusion was even greater than in other places. Historians of taste went even further along these lines while refining the analysis. The problem of the public for art could not be reduced to the number of visitors to exhibitions or to the corresponding social categories of the population. The work of art was not the subject of the beautiful but of a sort of magic comparable to the kind that, in societies with strong belief systems, endow certain objects with extraordinary power.
        This remark retains its relevance today, but the situation has changed in the past thirty years : the publics involved have considerably increased in numbers, in large part among those social categories that have long had an interest in culture. The dream of the kind of democratization imposed by André Malraux’s Maisons de la Culture (Community arts centers) has given way to the rationalization involved in studies (conducted by French Ministry of Culture) and in the “cultural actions” of various “coordinators” and “mediators.” The young, in particular, are now asked on a more systematical basis by their teachers to go to museums, and surely the future depends upon them. Vincent Huguet and David Cascaro are talking especially about them. Whether in book publishing or in museums, each of these authors has endeavored to promote greater knowledge of art. Their reflections nourish our own by referring us back ultimately to the nature of art.
        For, history has to hand back the ball to artists who opt for the dialogue they would really like to have with those who view art. At the end of the Sixties, Roland Barthes decided, without the usual precautions, that the reader was going “to be born from the death of the author,” in other words, from his propensity to shed his arrogance for the benefit of his public--“a brutal way of heralding a new and infinitely more delicate dialogue.”

Laurence Bertrand Dorléac




Letter published with the support of the Foundation of France

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