Tastemakers: past and present

Weekend-long art theory and business course

Courses and Classes

  • 16 June 2018, 10am — 5pm
  • 17 June 2018, 10am — 5pm

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Part of our

The Great Spectacle

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William Powell Frith, A Private View at the Royal Academy (detail), 1881.

Oil on canvas. 102.9 x 195.6 cm. Pope Family Trust, c/o Martin Beisly..

Led by Dr Anna Dempster, the Royal Academy’s Head of Academic Programmes, this weekend course offers critical insights into the role of the tastemaker: one of the most fascinating yet enigmatic characters of the art world.

Comparing the context of early art academies of the 17th-18th century and the current contemporary art world, experts and scholars will discuss the impact that they had and still have, on the system, as well as how tastemakers affect the structures and practices of the art world in both cutting-edge theory and real-world experience.

The notion that the aesthetic and market value of a work of art are interconnected is widely accepted within the context of museums, galleries, auction houses and other art institutions. However, how a work’s value can be positioned technically, reputationally and culturally in relation to taste is far more complex.

Assessing value in art, whether financial, cultural or aesthetic, is a complex operation that reflects both objective and subjective opinions, and as such is deeply rooted in the relationship between contemporary and individual taste.

Tastemakers, whether they are individuals or institutions, play an essential role in shaping the contemporary art world not only as the arbiters of value and aesthetic style but often also as the centre of complex influential networks. The scope and degree of their influence also has practical implications for artists as well as dealers and institutions such as museums and galleries.

The 18th and 21st centuries are two key periods in the development of the contemporary art world, seeing the emergence and growth of new institutions and the players within them. With the formation of the early academies and emergence of a new class of collector, the role of those who could influence process and practices at the time of the early museums was critical. More recently, with the growth of the international market for art, powerful galleries, auction houses, art fairs and other commercial ventures, has seen the role of the taste-maker as a market mover and market-maker once again become key.

This course will consider the history of tastemakers – the individuals, men and women as well as the institutions – who have become the mediators and arbiters of taste and whose influence, knowledge, networks and personalities have shaped the art world in the past and the art scene, cultural institutions and market today.

This course will also consider a number of key questions:

• How the art scene changed in last two centuries in relation to tastemakers who could influence it?

• Why is it important to consider the connection between key institutions in the historical and current art scenes and their markets?

• What is the difference between an art valuer, connoisseur and a tastemaker?

• How do tastemakers regard and use their power; how and why?

• What is the role of the artist in relation to tastemakers, institutions and individuals?

Understanding the role played by a tastemakers and their relationship to the art world is therefore critical for both individuals and institutions who want to take part in the art world. This course introduces and de-mystifies the power of these key players as pure aesthetic connoisseurs providing both an historical exploration of this topic as well as an holistic perspective.

References are made to different sectors including the French Academy, the Royal Academy of Arts and the contemporary international art world.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

  • 16 June 2018, 10am — 5pm
  • 17 June 2018, 10am — 5pm

British Academy Room, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts

£540. Includes light refreshments and lunch on both days and a wine reception.

Book now