Anne Helmreich, associate professor of art history, became enthralled with the rise of art galleries and the concept of selling art as a commodity during a course she co-taught with Catherine Scallen, also an associate professor of art history.
Helmreich plans to further her research of the history of the art market in the spring semester 2011 at the Getty Research Institute where she has been invited to be a fellow in residence. She will participate in the Institute’s research theme, "The Display of Art."
The fellowship will enable Helmreich to complete research and make progress in the production of a book manuscript that encompasses topics of art history, literary studies, business history and globalism by looking at the relationship between the production and commercialization of modern art in London between 1860 and 1930.
Helmreich will do a comparative analysis of three major London art galleries: Goupil, a branch of a Paris-based firm, and its two competitors-Chenil and Carfax. She will study how these art dealers and their galleries functioned as retail and cultural centers in London.
Essential to these institutions' abilities to trade effectively in art were modes of display that changed dramatically over the period, Helmreich said.
To complete her research on Goupil and its competitors, Helmreich will delve into unique archival resources at the Getty Library to support her argument that London was a burgeoning international hub for the art market.
Helmreich's interest in art galleries was piqued during research for a book on art and science in 19th Century Britain. That search took her to the Goupil archives at the Tate Britain and the National Art Library.
From there, she became interested in how the art market operated in London and Goupil's leading competitors (Chenil and Carfax) in the field of modern art.
She expanded her research to the Chenil records at the Chelsea and Kensington Local Studies Library and the archives of the Carfax Gallery at the Houghton Library (Harvard University) and the Clark Library, UCLA, where Helmreich was a fellow in May and June.
In the modern world, the sphere of art was irrevocably changed by the development of the commercial art dealer, who became a mediator between the artist and the buying public.
Helmreich argues that some of the most innovative practices in the art trade were developed in London. The London dealers worked from new retail premises, used rotating exhibitions and other innovative techniques of display as well as new technologies of advertising and marketing to tell the story of the artwork and promote its sale.
London, as a 'world city', was particularly well placed to become a major center for the international art market with its imperial network of trade, transportation and communications, Helmreich explained.
She hopes to show that London competed effectively with Paris as a world center for art and commerce.
"I believe strongly that display and presentation matter and shape perceptions of art," Helmreich said.
She added that many of these exhibition and marketing efforts are still practiced by today's commercial art dealers.
Helmreich’s initial research in London archives had support of a summer stipend from a National Endowment for the Humanities.
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