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Cultural Branding of Young and Emerging Contemporary Artists: The Role of Art Fairs and Online Platforms

Lee, Jinwoo (2018) Cultural Branding of Young and Emerging Contemporary Artists: The Role of Art Fairs and Online Platforms. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:67652)

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This thesis aims to analyse the process of branding young and emerging artists in the contemporary art market, focusing on the valuation of works of art. The ambiguous borderline of being a work of art in terms of appearance poses a challenge for the market, which requires an explanation of its symbolic value and meaning. A thick, multifarious group of intermediaries in the art world contributes to the construction of legitimacy for artists and their artworks, engendering the understanding of such value. Through the legitimation process, artworks by young and emerging artists are rendered accepted and validated, thereby branding them.

Some researchers on arts marketing have explored the valuation process by applying socio-cultural perspective on branding. However, such application has empirically overlooked two important mediums: art fairs and online platforms. Theoretically, the complex and fluid valuation structure in the art market, driven by the uncertain value of contemporary art and the repositioning of inner members of the art world, is a compelling research issue to be explored at the societal level. To do so, this thesis begins with investigating Andy Warhol's Brillo Box. This research also explores Frieze London and the Other Art Fair by collecting data from direct observation and secondary sources. The research additionally conducts an instrumental case study of Saatchi Art, using data from interviews, observation, and document reviews.

The key finding of the historical case is that the legitimacy of Warhol and his artworks was shaped by various elements such as the intermediaries, a myth in society, an artistic movement, the artists' persona and social networks. Moreover, the empirical cases of art fairs and an online platform enact the functions of discovering, introducing, instructing, and including young and emerging artists. This indicates that these institutions play the role of intermediaries and contribute to framing the legitimacy of the artists and artworks, thereby branding new artists. Although art fairs and an online platform hold varying positions in the hierarchical order of valuing artworks in the art world (depending on the extent of their accumulated symbolic value), it is noteworthy that such mediums, which did not exist in the hierarchical structure before the twentieth century, have become important insiders in the structure. However, this research concludes that this change does not substantially reconstitute the stratified structure of the art world that has existed prior to their emergence.

The theoretical contribution of this thesis lies in extending the application of Holt's (2004) theory of cultural branding to the context of arts. Building on the recent literature on cultural branding of artists (Kerrigan et al. 2011; Hewer, Brownlie and Kerrigan 2013; Muñiz, Norris and Fine 2014; Preece and Kerrigan 2015; Rodner and Preece 2015), this thesis conceptualises the process of legitimising young and emerging artists and their artworks as normative and cultural-cognitive legitimacy shaped by intermediaries through the stages of discovery, introduction, instruction, and selection. Moreover, by drawing on sociological arguments by Becker (1984) and Bourdieu (1996), the conceptual framework of the present study acknowledges the hierarchical structure of the art market and intricate interactions among intermediaries in the art world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Lee, Soo Hee
Thesis advisor: Mohr, Alexander
Uncontrolled keywords: Cultural Branding artists legitimacy artfairs online
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and International Business
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2018 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2023 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Lee, Jinwoo.

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