Contemporary Afro and two-sidedness: Black disapora aesthetic practice and the art market

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This paper examines the cases of five mid-career artists with Afro origins – Ghada Amer, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu, Yinka Shonibare, and Kara Walker – using interviews and other data provided by the artists, dealers, curators, contemporary art historians, and a collector. Such a variety of voices follows Negri [2009. Art and Multitude: Nine Letters on Art, Followed by Metamorphoses: Art and Immaterial Labour. Translated by E. Emery. Cambridge, MA: Polity], who suggests a two-sidedness of art as activity and commodity. Black diaspora aesthetic practices – double consciousness, associated with both Du Bois [1903. The Souls of Black Folk.] and Gilroy [1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press], and post-black, linked to Golden [2001. Freestyle. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem] – are addressed as part of an evolution of multiple identities. This is about how these artists negotiate the social structure they find themselves inhabiting and encountering to create meaning. These artistic phenomena, as commodities dictated by the circulation of capital, draw attention to the contemporary art market. The management of artistic relationships between artists and their dealers emphasizes what Granovetter [1985. “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness.” American Journal of Sociology 91 (3): 481 – 510], [1992. “Economic Institutions as Social Constructions: A Framework for Analysis.” Acta Sociologica 35: 3 – 11] calls social embeddedness, the interdependence of economic and non-economic actions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture and Organization
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Double Consciousness
  • Ppost-Black
  • Social Embeddedness
  • Contemporary Art
  • Aesthetics
  • Art Market
  • Negri

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