Art in strange places

Trevor  Harris's picture
Call for Papers
October 7, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, British History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Intellectual History, Social History / Studies

Conference - Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France, 17-18 March 2022

Art, in the sense of canonical works, is frequently seen overflowing from its recognised loci (e.g. art gallery, concert hall, literary festival, poetry reading...) into everyday culture. This may be a deliberate strategy to make the canon more accessible to a wider public, but it is very often commercially motivated. Unlike "pop art" - whose own aesthetic codes limited its appeal to a new elite -, or the structured popularisation/vulgarisation of high culture which aims to sustain the canon and educate the public in its ways, "high" art frequently appears in "low" places.

One of the most famous examples from the Victorian period is Sir John Everett Millais' "A Child's World" (1886) - more familiar as "Bubbles" - being used to advertise Pears' soap. With the development of reproduction technologies and consumerism, later periods greatly developed this relationship between high culture and advertising. The exploitation of art by the communication industry as a tool is not restricted, however, to advertising. The first contact of an end-user with a private company or a public organisation is often via a loop of classical music while on "hold". And works of art adorn many everyday objects. From coffee mugs to chocloate box lids, T-shirts to tailgates, the pressing into service of high culture, sometimes with, but very often without, recourse to an ironical strategy, means that references to the canon are a regular occurrence, sometimes in the most unexpected places.

How do the artistic community, authors, composers, collectors, critics and commentators react to this? What does the general public think? In what ways is the perception of art affected by this commodification?

The organisers invite proposals for papers treating any aspect of the use of canonical art in an everyday context in the English-speaking world, from the Victorian period to the present day. Proposals could address, but need not be limited to:

  • the intentions/objectives of those who use or appropriate art in this way
  • public perceptions and reactions, including any changes in attitudes to art which may be prompted
  • demonstrable links between such uses of art and policy regarding the themes and timing of exhibitions or other artistic events, or the level of public funding, or politicians' attitudes to art
  • links between such uses of art and definitions of what constitutes "heritage"
  • links between such uses and the representations or projections of Britain, or other parts of the English-speaking world

Proposals (c.400 words) and a short biographical note (c.150 words) should be sent to Béatrice Laurent ( and Trevor Harris ( by 7 October 2021.