In a 1946 Harper's Magazine essay, historian and critic Russell Lynes suggested that business should "drop the pretense of being a patron of the arts" to become "something better, something that makes more sense in our society: a good employer and a discriminating consumer." This pithy formulation alluded to an increasingly complex set of art-business relations, which, by the postwar period, involved such activities as advertising, corporate identification, industrial design, and office planning.
Historical attention to the interrelationships between business and the arts has tended to center on the postwar U.S. and Western Europe, foregrounding the aesthetic regimes of modernism; the charisma of (usually white male) artists, designers, and architects; or the leadership of ostensibly enlightened executives and companies. Recent scholarship has dug deeper by questioning the ideological blind spots of corporate design; critiquing narratives of entrepreneurial innovation; and recovering the role of consumers, educators, and governments in shaping the corporate landscape. At a time when the social and environmental costs of business-as-usual have become starkly apparent, this session seeks to intervene in this historiography by cultivating nuanced, pluralistic, and global understandings of the intersections between business and the arts, broadly defined. Proposed papers might consider topics including (among others):
- Shifting discourses on corporate patronage
- Critiques of art and design’s relationship to capital
- The ethics of art-business relations
- Professionalization in the arts
- The aesthetics of corporate culture
- Art and design in the gig economy
- Craft and handiwork in commercial contexts
- Visual techniques of marketing and merchandising
- Technologies of industrial organization
For instructions on how to submit a proposal, please visit the CAA Annual Conference CFP page.