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Description: The Artist as Economist: Art and Capitalism in the 1960s
~Just like the artist Robert Filliou, who plays a key role in her book, art historian Sophie Cras has professional training as an economist. While undertaking her advanced work in art history at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS), she completed a master’s degree in finance from the Paris Institute d’études politiques (Sciences...
PublisherYale University Press
PublisherTerra Foundation for American Art
Foreword
Just like the artist Robert Filliou, who plays a key role in her book, art historian Sophie Cras has professional training as an economist. While undertaking her advanced work in art history at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS), she completed a master’s degree in finance from the Paris Institute d’études politiques (Sciences Po), where she graduated summa cum laude. Her rigorous academic background in both art history and economics has enabled her to author the present book, in which she examines with keen nuance the ways in which money and financial systems became a central focus of artistic practice in the 1960s.
The Artist as Economist: Art and Capitalism in the 1960s (expertly translated from the French by Malcolm DeBevoise) considers how artists in both the United States and Europe—most of whom did not have Filliou’s expertise even as they shared his interest in economics—engaged with issues of monetary exchange between 1955 and 1975. Cras develops not parallel tales but overlapping stories as she traces the practices of artists who traveled among New York, Paris, and other European capitals. In so doing she pays careful attention to the regional varieties of capitalist economics, while also tracing overarching commonalities such as anxieties about financial stability, the development of a neoliberal economic discourse, and the international economic crisis at the beginning of the 1970s.
In the pages that follow, Cras presents a complex and historically specific analysis of how art participated in economic systems in the 1960s. She discusses the manifold ways in which artists tried to come to grips with the financial market, whether representing paper money or stock charts directly, turning the act of investing into a work of art, or critiquing economic systems themselves. She also brings to light the ambiguous and intriguing interrelationships between economic and aesthetic valuation. The text is attentive to the specifics of local financial context, the emergence of economic expertise and the debates among economists in the 1960s, the particularities of the work of art, and the cross-Atlantic dialogue among artists within the Western economic bloc during the Cold War.
But as it deepens our understanding of the era, this book also raises issues that remain pressing today, from the tensions over finances in the European Union to the extremes of financial speculation in the art market. It invites us to consider how artists of our time can reimagine the agency of the individual—and of art—within our economy.
CÉCILE WHITING