Larissa Buchholz. The Rise of China in the Global Arts Market

Monday, October 12, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Monday, October 12 from 2-3:30 in Barrows 402

The Rise of China in the Global Arts Market

The talk examines the valuation of Chinese contemporary art in the global art market. In the new millennium, Chinese contemporary artists benefited from an extraordinary rise at auction sales, achieving multimillion-dollar prices that rivaled Western superstars. Given that just a few years before many Chinese artists were marginal, the boom constitutes a genuine puzzle, and offers a fascinating case of the construction of value in a global cultural market. Drawing from fieldwork; 53 semi-structured interviews; secondary sources and tools of field theory, the talk develops a model of the global auction market as a multi-scalar status market that is stratified along global, regional and national tiers. It reconstructs how Chinese contemporary art became part of auction sales at global centers that held highest symbolic capital; and reveals how these houses framed its value primarily in investment terms. It then traces how the symbolic capital and financial meanings that Chinese contemporary art gained at global sales fueled demand at Asian and Chinese auctions. However, it is shown that feedback effects from the global to the regional and national must be explained by their refraction with the relatively autonomous structures, cultures and historical junctures at each tier. Thus, the talk traces the workings of a multi-scalar global status market. The rise of Chinese contemporary art emerged from the flow of meanings and values across interdependent global, regional and national market levels, being refracted along a nested prestige structure.

Larissa Buchholz is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Her work focuses on cultural sociology, sociological theory, transnational and global sociology, but also is informed by interests in inequality, economic sociology, and the sociology of knowledge. Buchholz earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University. She was a contributor to Harrison C. White's second Identity & Control, and authored and coauthored a number of sociological publications in her areas of interest, e.g. on global field analysis, a comparison of the reception of Bourdieu in the UK and the US, the uses of ethnography for studying embodiment, phenomenological network theory, and the sociology of intellectuals. These publications have appeared in, among other outlets, Theory and Society, Soziale Systeme, and Annual Review of Sociology. Currently, Buchholz is completing her book The Global Rules of Art, which engages with global transformations in the contemporary visual arts from historical, structural and interpretative perspectives. Buchholz received the 2013 outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association.