This MA course investigates the role of collectors, art dealers, curators, exhibitions, critics and the art market in the formation of modern European art. The activities of a growing group of dealers in contemporary art, including such influential personalities as Ambroise Vollard, Paul Durand-Ruel, and Daniel Henry-Kahnweiler, affected the period’s most notable collectors. Focusing on Paris, Vienna, London, Moscow and Munich, we will explore a selection of particularly influential exhibitions and collections, incorporating them into the wider artistic and social networks of which they were a part. Exhibitions and collections were the main instruments and means to formulate ideas about artistic production and to transform the reception of modern art before museums of contemporary art became the main spaces for the presentation, display and promotion of works by living artists. Case studies will include: the Salon des Refusés in 1863; the ‘Impressionist’ group shows of the 1870s and 1880s; ‘The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting ‘0.10’ which displayed Malevich’s Black Square as a modernist icon; Roger Fry’s introduction of ‘Post-Impressionism’ to London in 1910 and 1912; exhibitions by Der Blaue Reiter in Munich, and the First Russian exhibition in Berlin in 1922.
Questions addressed in the course will include: How far do art dealers and curators influence the works that a collector buys, and therefore contemporary taste? How far do they influence artistic production itself? To what extent has the history of modern art been determined by art dealers, curators, collectors and art critics? Recent scholarship has challenged the long-standing separation of art history, exhibition history, curating and collecting. Building on this wave of new research and writing, this course will examine the nature and function of images and art objects within their social, political, economic and historical contexts in relation to issues of gender, class, nationalism and imperialism. The course builds on the historical legacy of Samuel Courtauld’s gift to the public of his private collection to study, at first hand, key exhibitions and collections of modern art in the UK and Europe. The aim of the course is to explore how some of the most significant modern European exhibitions and collections changed art historical narratives, defined artists and movements and ultimately informed how we look at and understand modern art.