Accepted Paper:

The business of art: art spectacles in the contemporary metropolitan order  


Banu Karaca (Forum Transregionale Studien)

Paper short abstract:

As cities become increasingly gentrified, art spectacles emerge as vital instruments of economic development and art gets intimately connected to cultural entrepreneurship. Comparing art scenes of Istanbul and Berlin, I trace the spectacularisation of art in the contemporary metropolitan order.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines city spectacles through the example of large-scale urban art events such as biennales and performance festivals. While these art events are often presented as aiming to engage a broader public than 'conventional' art formats and to (re)claim public space, I posit that in cityscapes increasingly characterized by income-polarization, gentrification and social segmentation, urban art spectacles have become a vital economic development strategy. This type of city marketing, I argue, is intimately connected to and based on discourses of "cultural entrepreneurship" that are currently restructuring international art worlds and within which artists and other cultural workers are increasingly understood as the new service providers for global metropolises.

But how can we conceptualize this convergence of economic interests, cultural policy and artistic practices? What are the effects on artistic production and consumption of this development? How is it impacting the critical potential that contemporary art is supposed to entail? Who is the actual audience addressed in these urban spectacles? And finally, how is urban, national and international diversity expressed or rather managed within these types of events?

Drawing on examples collected in a comparative ethnographic study of the art scenes of Istanbul and Berlin, as well as data previously gathered in New York City, my paper attempts to answer such questions and trace the circulation, parallels and divergences of the discourses and practices that account for the "spectacularization" of art in the contemporary metropolitan order.

Panel W037
Investigating the city spectacle in a globalising world