Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

The Audience of Contemporary Art: Between Influenced and Influencer

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

The Audience of Contemporary Art: Between Influenced and Influencer

Article excerpt

Introduction

The dynamic of the contemporary art field seems to be more and more complex. The matter we are addressing in this paper is that of the influence of the audience over the presentation and valorisation of contemporary art. At this point we need to mention that our attention will be set on the activity of the contempo- rary art galleries, after we will present the classification. Although it may seem that the audience is the main receiver, we will show that only a very small part of the audience is, actually, a subject of interest in the way contemporary art is made.

If we consider contemporary art as a communication tool it is obvious that it has to be regardful of the target audience. We note here that we will not include in this discussion internet art and, in consequence, internet audience, because it has its own means of promoting and functioning. Although galleries and museum use internet as a mean of promotion, it is essentially different from what a self promoting artist using this communication medium can mean and how it can function. Therefore, we consider that this topic excedes the purpose of this paper.

I.Types of audience in contemporary art

In order to generate this classification, we used the following three criteria: the way the art object or action is presented, the kind of place used for display and the personal interests of the people implied in the act of seeing contemporary art. We consider that this type of classification needs more than just the institutional criterion, as will be easily observed in the description of this categories and the brief description of the role this audience plays in the production of contemporary art. The six categories we found using the process described above are the following: the socialite audience, the citizen audience, the cultural-mall audience, the politicised audience, the unwitting audience and the potent audience. Given the fact that this classification tends to analyse the way individuals tend to act in certain situations, we may realise that these categories often overlap, but without changing the affecting or working against the categories and their role.

The first category we mentioned above, the socialite audience, refers to those type of individuals that use to attend gallery openings. Usually, this type of event tends to focus around the social relationships that can be formed or strengthened. This audience numbers among its members the so called art professionals, ranging from people with some degree of fame, thanks to their activity, to those with no fame at all. Here we can find art students, aspiring artists, minor artists, aspiring or minor curators, art theoreticians, art critics, sometimes celebrities and maybe the most important: the artist(s) whose works are exhibited, the curator who prepared the show and the gallerist. Given the spectacular presence of important artworld figures, this events are one of the most important occasions through which art professionals get to know each other. This can lead to artists inviting curators or gallerists visiting their studio, with benefits for all the implied parts. It can be the perfect moment for critics to be convinced to write reviews about the show on display -regardless of the positive or negative content of the chronicle, given the fact that this practice counts only as an indicator of the fame of the artists and the quality of their work; we must remember here all the literature that indicates the power deficiency art criticism suffers (Elkins 2003, p. 4). We did not mention the interest this socialite audience has upon the art displayed mainly because is totally lacking. Also, it could be quite difficult to really appreciate art-works with everybody just mingling around, making it really hard to gasp the works or to have a moment in front of them.

Far from us the intention of a caricaturization of this kind of audience. In the way the artworld works, this kind of behaviour at openings it is a must in order to survive in a professional branch that has loads of artists, curators, theoreticians and critics, maybe a lot of them being great at what they are doing, but lacking the promoting opportunities they need in order to survive from this. …

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