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How Important Is Art History in Today’s Market?

7 lipca 2020, 08:21
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How Important Is Art History in Today’s Market?

These were just a few of the howls of online dismay that followed the announcement this month that AQA, the last examining board offering History of Art as an A-level test to 16- to 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, would be dropping the subject.To get more news about importance of art in history, you can visit shine news official website.

“Our decision wasn’t about money or whether history of art deserves a place in the curriculum,” said a statement issued by the AQA press office. The small number of students taking the subject and its wide range of topics had made it difficult to compare exam performance, the board explained.

Just 839 students took AQA’s History of Art A-level last summer (as opposed to 15,789 taking Physics), with the vast majority of those candidates attending private schools. Many of these students have gone on to study the subject at university and will then take unpaid or modestly paid positions in galleries and auction houses that sell artworks for multi-digit prices.

Art history, deservedly or not, has acquired a reputation for elitism and dilettantism. In 2014 President Obama said in a speech that people with skills in a trade or manufacturing can make a lot more money “than they might with an art history degree.” The president later apologized for the remark. Pushing for a similar reversal, hundreds of academics have urged British lawmakers to reinstate the History of Art A-level. The Pearson group is currently “exploring with the government” whether it is able to re-offer the subject, according to a press officer.
Nevertheless, the perception remains that studying Rembrandt or Rothko is not a “serious” academic discipline. Yet this idea is strangely at odds with the prestige that art and artists can confer on individuals and institutions, at least in certain circles.

That disconnect was plain to see on Oct. 20 when ArtReview published its 15th annual Power 100 listing. While Twitter was still reverberating with what the Columbia University professor Simon Schama called the “outrage” of that axed A-level, Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, was declared the most powerful individual in the art world.
Chosen by 20 anonymous international experts appointed by the weighty London-based magazine, the ArtReview Power 100 gives the outside world an inside track on the latest trends of the contemporary art world. The ranking is dominated by curators (14), artists (25), collectors (16) and gallerists (30). Auction house specialists, art advisers and critics rarely feature on the list, and this year none make it.

“Power” for ArtReview is held by those who decide what kind of art is “made visible,” according to the list’s introduction.
In that regard, the Swiss-born Mr. Obrist, 48 — who never formally studied art history — is hard to beat. Legendary for the insomniac relentlessness of his globe-trotting schedule, he travels to visit artists and museums 52 weekends of the year and is the co-founder of the Brutally Early Club, a discussion group that periodically convenes in cities such as London, New York and Paris at 6.30 am. Mr. Obrist is a curator of artists’ “thoughts and intentions” more than what they “do and make,” though he is “an enabler” of that as well, the keepers of the list write. The British digital artist Ed Atkins (number 50 in the Power 100) was given a one-man show by him at the Serpentine in 2014.

In July, Mr. Obrist published his “Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects,” echoing Giorgio Vasari’s famous 1550 “Lives,” which the would-be curator read at the age of 17. Those same biographies underpin the threatened A-level History of Art syllabus studied by British 17 year-olds, who many view as choosing a “soft” option.

Mr. Obrist is becoming the Vasari of our digital age. His ongoing “Interview Project” on has over 2,000 hours of interviews with influential individuals across a range of cultural disciplines. He is the co-founder of, a research project that curates and promotes the work of more than 6,000 artists born in or after 1989. He has 147,000 followers on Instagram, where he systematically posts images of handwritten messages artists doodle at the end of interviews with him.


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