SECAC 2012: Art in Three Crises: 30–70–Now

Chairs:  Ruth Erickson, University of Pennsylvania; Emilie Anne- Yvonne Luse, Duke University


The Speculative Canvas: Antisemitic Critiques of the Parisian Art Market between the Two World Wars 
Emilie Anne-Yvonne Luse, Duke University

Economic historians readily acknowledge that the regulation of speculative finance in France has historically been a matter of instrumental politics rather than the straightforward application of law. For example, after the polarizing Dreyfus affair, unfounded accusations of “illicit” speculation were at the core of antisemitic campaigns in the popular press, while conspiratorial cries of the speculative “high Semite bank” were often plied to rally working-class distrust of financial abstraction and protectionist fears of international financiers like the Rothschilds. However, in the lead-up to the 1929 financial crisis, structural changes in the Parisian art market, including a professionalizing dealer system, new investment strategies, and coincidentally, the success of a new class of foreign artists—many of them Jewish—would provide “proof” to antisemites of another example of Jewish speculation: that of modern art itself. Tracing the historical semantics of labor value and abstraction in the Third Republic, this paper explores the political valences, implicit and explicit, in the moral policing of art market speculation between the two wars. In so doing Luse shows how a criterion so often considered a hallmark of modernism—the commodity critique—was also a strategy adopted by even the most virulently anti-modern.


Art and Real Estate in the 1970s
Rachel Wetzler, The Graduate Center, CUNY

This paper considers the theme of art and real estate in New York in the 1970s, focusing on several artists’ projects that take real estate as their subject and, in some cases, primary material. In a period of severe economic crisis, in which the city of New York was on the verge of bankruptcy, artists such as Gordon Matta- Clark, Hans Haacke, and the collective Colab used their work to explore the relationship between urban space, capital, and power, highlighting the ways in which a consideration of urban space is inextricable from questions of ownership and transaction—issues that come to the fore particularly acutely during periods of financial crisis. Projects such as Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” and his New York building cuts, Haacke’s “Real Estate Holdings,” and Colab’s “Real Estate Show” all use art as a means of posing trenchant questions about the financial underpinnings of the city and its failures. Given that the current economic crisis is directly tied to the real estate market collapse, and there have been global confrontations regarding the right to occupy urban space, the questions and issues raised by these artists seem particularly timely, and might offer a contextual framework for the present.


How ROCKY Neo-liberated the Individual from Industrial Precisionism
Grant Wiedenfeld, Yale University

There is no doubt that “Rocky” (1976) heralds the emerging neoliberal hero while inaugurating the prominence of sport in American cinema. Less obvious is how the film applies this ideology to the urban landscape, self-consciously denigrating Precisionism in favor of a cinematic neoclassicism. The film re-situates Sheeler’s and Demuth’s industrial Philadelphia in a narrative of class entrenchment, dehumanization, and moral decline. Monumental metal encroaches on the individual. Wage labor brings no redemption. Athletics, however, afford competitive opportunity, personal achievement, and embodied relationships. Wiedenfeld connects these protestant attitudes to sociological studies of American masculinity and de-industrialization. The epic narrative of “Rocky” offers of liberation from the daily grind. Whereas the Depression sparked a movement to social unity culminating in labor unions and state-supported heavy industry, the 1970s recession folded counter-cultural criticism into the creative destruction of late capitalism. In this new spirit, “Rocky” appropriates the mobility and introspection of postwar art cinema to revive Classical dramatic form. In Deleuzean terms, time-image reverts back to movement-image. Yet from Classical to New Hollywood, the individual’s relation to the state has changed significantly.


Alternative Art / Alternative Economies
Lauren Rosati, The Graduate Center, CUNY

In the late-1920s, the Romanian anarchist Marie Marchand opened a tavern in Manhattan. Designed by Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi, Romany Marie’s, as the restaurant was known, was a bohemian eatery, a social space for thinkers to discuss radical politics and a haven for artists who were fed for free during the Great Depression. In 1977, a collective of artists formed Colab (Collaborative Projects, Inc.) to provide a creative network and alternative financial economy for its members. Brought together by collaborative practice and a do-it-yourself attitude, and enabled by cheap rent and borrowed space, the artists of Colab organized exhibitions like the “Real Estate Show” and “Income & Wealth Show,” which critiqued the capitalist excesses of New York and the art market. In 2003, building on the legacy of artists such as Marcel Broodthaers, Filip Noterdaeme opened the fictitious Homeless Museum, an institution devoid of art, which mocked the corporatization and commercialization of the cultural establishment. Investigating these three New York “alternative” art spaces as case studies, Rosati’s paper explores the relationships between financial and social “depressions” and cultural economy and the ways in which countercultural arts projects responded to economic crisis in the 1930s, 1970s and 2000s.


Time: 10/19/2012, 8:00 AM—9:30 AM

Location: Durham Convention Center, Junior Ballroom B