“Premiers canons: comment l’avènement de l’histoire de l’art a structuré la compréhension de l’art moderne aux Etats-Unis.”
“Priming the canon: How the rise of art history structured US understandings of modern art.”
In art, where the central evaluative process takes place through canon formation, legitimating organizations are key gate-keepers, responsible for both the construction of the canon and its presentation to audiences. Though the influence organization’s critical assessment have on cultural value is well-established in art and cultural studies, how critical organizations interact with each other to develop and adopt common assessments remains largely undefined. Which choices dominate as field institutions come to agreement on preferred classifications and criteria of merit? Particularly in emerging fields where value is undetermined, how do institutions coalesce around a new ideology by which worth is judged? In this chapter, such questions are addressed by examining how two important legitimating institutions, academia and museums, coalesced on their canonical assessment of modern artists. Since the modern art movement did not occur in the United States until the first half of the 20th century, focusing on the US modern art field at this time allows for an examination of how legitimating organizations developed the modern art canon for the US art world. I argue that the organizational assessment of modern artists was a process largely structured by the emerging ideology of art history, as well as broader national interests. Overall, examining canon formation as a process of convergence between central organizations allows for an understanding of the structural role in art world valuation. The chapter is structured in the following way: first, canonization is theoretically conceptualized as a process of choice coalescence between important legitimating organizations that compose and unite a given field. I argue that canon coalescence is structured—and only possible—through a shared legitimating ideology. I apply this theoretical framework to the concurrent emergence and rise of the ideology of art history and field of modern art in the US during the first half of the 20th century. I show that the art historical ideology structured modern art’s acceptance and high art ascension in the US art world. Finally, I offer a case study to demonstrate how the art historical characteristic of nationality served to shape canon creation as part of the story-telling needed to create a viable “art history” for modern art in the United States.
Braden, L.E.A. (2017). “Premiers canons: comment l’avènement de l’histoire de l’art a structuré la compréhension de l’art moderne aux Etats-Unis.”. In Jeux et articulations des formes de consécration / Edited by Pierig Humeau, Laurence Ellena, and Fanny Renard. Limoges: PULIM Presses Universitaires de Limoges, France. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/111437