Contemporary art and cultural complexity

The case of Chelsea

Authored by: David Halle , Kim Robinson

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159


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Much social-scientific writing on specific cultural phenomena has tended to foreground one or two analytic frames of reference from the variety of those that have been developed in the field. Here we draw on findings from a case study of a local art scene in a global context—Chelsea, Manhattan, the most important contemporary art-gallery district in the world. We argue that our empirical material concerns a highly complex situation for which one or two analytic frames cannot alone do justice. We further suggest that this may be true now of many other central cultural phenomena, partly because of the increasingly “global” context in which they exist. As complex phenomena (like art worlds) change over time, the analytic approaches that work best also change, with new ones coming to the fore and older ones needing modification in key ways.

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