Art Worlds

Art Worlds

Howard S. Becker

Language: English

Pages: 435

ISBN: 0520256360

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This classic sociological examination of art as collective action explores the cooperative network of suppliers, performers, dealers, critics, and consumers who—along with the artist—"produce" a work of art. Howard S. Becker looks at the conventions essential to this operation and, prospectively, at the extent to which art is shaped by this collective activity. The book is thoroughly illustrated and updated with a new dialogue between Becker and eminent French sociologist Alain Pessin about the extended social system in which art is created, and with a new preface in which the author talks about his own process in creating this influential work.

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own handwriting into the finished product, leaving it to printers to put the material into a readable form; we see autograph copies of their poetry only when we are interested in the revisions they made in their own hand on the manuscript (see, for instance, Eliot, 1971) or in a rare case such as that of William Blake, who engraved his own plates, on which poems appeared in his own hand, and printed them himself, so that his hand was part of the work. But in much Oriental poetry the calligraphy

ordinarily described as the sociology of art treat art as relatively autonomous, free from the kinds of organizational constraints that surround other forms of collective activity. I have not considered those theories here because they deal essentially with philosophical questions quite different from the mundane social organizational problems with which I have concerned myself (see Donow, 1979). Insofar as what I have to say questions the assumption of freedom from economic, political, and

fitted with a motor drive (especially when shooting sports events) and might make dozens of exposures of the same event in quick succession. After they developed the film, they made what was called a "contact sheet" or a "proof sheet," showing each of the thirty-six exposures. This gave them a convenient way of inspecting what they had done. Most photographers considered this stage of inspection, when they chose among the many exposures they had made of the same or similar matters, crucial. They

promotion, etc.-to guarantee they wind up as best sellers.... Yet they fell flat on their faces. On the other hand we have produced records for which only a modest success was anticipated that became runaway best sellers. (Brief, 1964, quoted in Hirsch, 1972, p. 644) Hirsch notes, finally, that these industries adopt a number of strategies to deal with this uncertain environment, including a "proliferation of contact men" -who distribute products to retailers and people in the mass media who can

whatever virtue this analysis has does not come from the discovery of any hitherto unknown facts or relations. Instead, it comes from exploring systematically the implications of the art world concept. Though the basic idea seems commonplace, many of its implications are not. Thus, it seems obvious to say that if everyone whose work contributes to the finished art work does not do his part, the work will come out differently. But it is not obvious to pursue the implication that it then becomes a

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