Integral to definitions of culture within Britain is the practice and production of art. Bart Vendenabeele states that there is no universal concept of art84 and, as such, it can incorporate any number of “objects, actions and beliefs”85 which today transcend the boundaries of artworks presented by traditional art institutions. There can, and should,


Tallon, A. (2010), Urban Regeneration in the UK, London and New York: Routledge, p.238 80 ibid., p.246


Freestone, R. and Gibson, C. (2006), “The Cultural Dimension of Urban Planning Strategies: An Historical Perspective” in Culture, Urbanism and Planning, eds. J. Monclús and M. Guàrdia, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, pp.21-41 (p.21)


Tallon (2010), Urban Regeneration in the UK, p.225 83 ibid., p.226

84 Vendenabeele, B. (2004), “‘New’ Media, Art and Intercultural Communication,” Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol.38, no.4, pp.1-9 (p.4)


Biggs, L. (2004), “‘Art, Money, Parties’ and Liverpool Biennial” in Art, Money, Parties: New Institutions in the Political Economy of Contemporary Art, ed. J. Harris, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, pp.39-54 (p.39)

however, be certain commonalities, either in media, method or intent that identify an object as a piece of art.86 These qualities exclude very little in practice, and the recent increase in artworks produced by using new forms of media has served to isolate some contemporary art from the process of institutionalisation that historically defines how it is understood in society. Contemporary art today is as inclusive of different practices and processes as at any time in its history, and Jean Baudrillard suggests that there have been key moments and artists in the twentieth century that have facilitated this change.87

A postmodern cultural theorist and sociologist, Baudrillard states that he sees a significant shift towards “abolishing the subject of art,”88 and attributes this, in part, to the work of Marcel Duchamp and, later, Andy Warhol. Although not a mainstream view, he indicates the importance of Duchamp’s readymades in allowing processes and practices not traditionally considered to be artistic to enter the mainstream art canon.

The event of the readymade indicates a suspension of subjectivity where the artistic act is just the transposition of an object into an art object. Art is then only an almost magic operation: the object is transferred in its banality into an aesthetics that turns the entire world into a readymade. In itself, Duchamp’s act is infinitesimal, but starting with him, all the banality of the world passes into aesthetics, and inversely, all aesthetics becomes banal.89

Baudrillard’s idea that everything becomes banal reinforces the need for mediation to perpetuate within art in order to ensure its survival.90 Consequently, Vendenabeele places a particular importance on the need to understand the “human values, intentions, interests, or habits” of an artwork,91 and by doing so, enables art to function in many different roles. These have diversified alongside the media employed by artists and, therefore, art’s functions can include, amongst others, the role of currency, fashion statement, moral exemplar, aspiration, sensual pleasure, investment, and celebration.92


Pooke, G. and Newall, D. (2008), Art History: The Basics, London: Routledge, p.16 87 See Baudrillard 2005


Baudrillard, J. (2005), The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos, Interviews, Essays, New York: Semiotext(e), p.44

89 ibid., p.52 90

Cubitt, S. (2009a), “Art, Technology and Policy in the Twenty-First Century,” Third Text, vol.23, no.5, pp.571-578 (p.571)

91 Vendenabeele (2004), “‘New’ Media, Art and Intercultural Communication,” pp.6-7 92

However these functions are achieved, the artwork must undergo a process of mediation which is primarily undertaken by art institutions and the academy93 and, thus, Vendenabeele’s view that “art is the best possible window into another community”94 only has meaning if we remember that the view through this window is constructed by the same systems that traditionally provide the tools for us to make sense of the world we live in.

Although the history of art stretches back many centuries, the art academy gave birth to the discipline of art history in the institutions of North America and Western Europe during the eighteenth century.95 That these institutions were primarily white, male and middle class is noteworthy because, as Elizabeth C. Mansfield claims, art history plays an integral role in “shap[ing] a nation’s sense of self.”96 Consequently, it became more prominent during the nineteenth century’s “crescendo” of nationalism,97 but the geographical disparity and elitism of art history has led to a skewed historicisation. With the majority of art history departments being located in the West, certain areas of art remain neglected whilst some new art forms are quickly accepted and, therefore, develop rapidly. Charles W. Haxthausen extends this analysis beyond the academy, and includes museums and galleries in the changing nature of art history. He suggests that not only does the declining interest in aestheticism affect the ability of art historians to provide an adequately critical scholarship, but the transformation of museums into “part of the entertainment industry” further exacerbates the problem.98 This being the nature of the changing social and cultural issues at play in modern society is arguably where art historians situate themselves and the art they study and, therefore, the importance of a broader context becomes more apparent.99

93 Crowther, P. (2004), “Defining Art, Defending the Canon, Contesting Culture,” British Journal of Aesthetics, vol.44, no.4, pp.361-377 (p.363)


Vendenabeele (2004), “‘New’ Media, Art and Intercultural Communication,” p.1 95 See Elkins 2007


Mansfield, E.C. (2007), “Introduction: Making Art History a Profession” in Making Art History: A Changing Discipline and Its Institutions, ed. E.C. Mansfield, London and New York: Routledge, pp.1-9 (p.3)

97 ibid. 98

Haxthausen, C.W. (2002), “Introduction” in The Two Art Histories: The Museum and the University, ed. C.W. Haxthausen, Williamstown: Sterling and Francis Clark Art Institute, pp.ix-xxv (p.xi)


How art and art history, still often perceived as an activity for the elite, aligned with this need can be traced through the latter part of the twentieth century. In Jonathan Harris’s

The New Art History (2001), he identifies the riots of May 1968 as a key turning point for the arts and culture,100 and states that the rioters’:

Cultural backgrounds and experience, relating, for instance, to factors of class, gender, and ethnicity were in sharp contrast to that of the narrow elite of upper-middle, mostly male and white people who had been able to study at universities before the 1960s’ expansion.101

The suggestion here is that whilst it was from the elite that the majority of academics came, the politicisation of society which accompanied the social revolution of the 1960s, enabled more relevant art to be made and, therefore, a more relevant art history to be written. Stephen Deuchar suggests that this continued in the 1980s, although he also notes that it was only then, with a political imperative derived from Thatcherism in Britain and “a more overtly populist and commercially driven approach to display and exhibition-making,” that this new approach to art history started to infiltrate the museum.102

In document The art of regeneration: the establishment and development of the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, 1985–2010 (Page 49-52)