Museums and Wealth: The Politics of Contemporary Art Collections. Book presentation by Nizan Shaked

12.11.2023 18:00

Moderation: Lukas Fuchsgruber

A critical analysis of contemporary art collections and the value form, this book shows why the nonprofit system is unfit to administer our common collections, and offers solutions for diversity reform and redistributive restructuring. 

A history of how private collections were turned public gives context. Since the late Renaissance, private collections legitimized the prince's right to rule, and later, with the great revolutions, display consolidated national identity. But the rise of the American museum reversed this and re-privatized the public collection. Today, many European institutions are following the American example uncritically. A materialist description of the museum as a model institution of the liberal nation state reveals constellations of imperialist social relations. 

Nizan Shaked is Professor of Contemporary Art History, Museum and Curatorial Studies, College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach, USA.

“Finally, a book that does the heavy lifting of querying the obfuscated connection between economic and aesthetic value, addressing a blind spot in the critique of institutions. Shaked gives a solid account of the complicated entwinement of the art market and the exponential growth in the financial sector of first world economies that increasingly rely on debt rather than on actual production. She explains why, over the last thirty years, the art world hat become little more than a hedge fund working for the interests of the wealthiest class. The latter development, as she demonstrates, explains the mushroom cloud like quantitative expansion of contemporary art practices in proportion to its concomitant fall and contraction in quality and creative risk. She also traces the social worlds that gather around venal self-interest masquerading as professional ‘sacrifice for the team’.”

Jaleh Mansoor, Associate Professor, The University of British Columbia, Canada    

Nizan Shaked: Museums and Wealth. The Politics of Contemporary Art Collections. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2022.

This event is organised by Katja Diefenbach, Stephan Geene, Çiğdem Inan, and Susanne Leeb.

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