A sociological-historical study of artistic valuation, selection and justification: expert panels in contemporary art in Flanders (1965-2015).

01 January 2023 → 31 December 2026
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Cultural sociology
    • Sociology of arts
    • Social theory
field theory artistic evaluation Institutional logics
Project description

With this project we propose a sociological-historical analysis of the artistic evaluation, selection and justification done by government panels that decide over granting subsidies to contemporary visual artists for the last fifty years. We come up with an integrated conceptualization of (artistic) (e)valuation incorporating theories that draw on institutional logics and on strategic action fields where positions reflect power differences. Using unique archival data which we collected in the past two years -- namely the reports of the committees with the decisions and their justifications for all applying artists -- we empirically address what kind of institutional logics these government panels deploy for the period 1965-2015 to justify their artistic selections, how these are related to the kinds of artists/artworks under consideration and how the cultural policy context affects the way in which these logics are set to work. Using a mixed methods approach including Multiple Correspondence Analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, we explore the ways and dynamics in which artistic worth is established, what kind of criteria are involved and how the interaction between expert panels, artworks and policy context produce artistic value. Moreover, using the artists' portfolios and the way their artwork is related to what was produced at the time -- drawing on relational thinking --, we intend to bring the artwork back into the sociology of the arts.