CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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The Commercial Art Gallery as Cultural Contact Zone

Session 14 The Other and the Foreign: Contact, Curiosity, and Creative Exchange

Texas Christian University


The commercial art gallery, this paper argues, was a critically important contact zone that facilitated and accelerated processes of artistic exchange and encounter between cultures. Focusing on the historic London art market at the turn of the last century—the age of empire—this paper investigates how dealers and related agents introduced and circulated art forms understood to be ‘other’ and ‘foreign’. It focuses, in particular, on examples of Indian, Persian, and African art that circulated in the gallery context.

While art dealers were rarely the first to introduce new art forms to the public—they were often working in the wake of museum activities in this area and even assisted museums in their collecting activities—they aided greatly in making these new art forms more visible and consumable for connoisseurs and the general public. Given that the commercial art gallery was a site of spectacle, sociability, and fashionability, what did it mean to introduce these art forms into this coded space? How did the context of the commercial art gallery inflect possible meanings of these works of art? 


Anne Helmreich is Dean, College of Fine Arts, at Texas Christian University. Formerly she was Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation. Prior to joining the Getty Foundation she was Associate Professor of Art History and Director, Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Case Western Reserve University. She received her B.A. from Dickinson College (History), her M.A. from the University of Pittsburgh (Art History), and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University (Art History). She is a scholar of modern art, specializing in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British art and the built environment. Her current research focuses on the history of the art market. She recently co-edited The Rise of the Modern Art Market in London, 1850-1939, with Pamela Fletcher, and co-authored with Pamela Fletcher, “Local/Global:  Mapping Nineteenth-Century London’s Art Market,” the first article in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide’s Digital Humanities and Art History series, funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and which won the ARIAH 2015 prize for best online essay. Her scholarship has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Getty Research Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Clark Library, the Harry Ransom Center, the Huntington, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.