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Contemporary Art Fairs in Large Cities of Russia as Markets of Symbolic Goods

Student: Anastasiia Arefeva

Supervisor: Margarita Kuleva

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: Sociology and Social Informatics (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2021

The research problem of my thesis is no explicit art market structure, and the pricing process of art objects is complex and variable. In theory (which presented a few decades ago) it is introduced clear divisions of fields between the limited field of production and the mass field of production; art market is classified as a field of limited production. Now the boundaries are more complex, the relationship between commerce and art is more confusing. This study examines the question of how the aesthetic value of an art object is constructed performatively and how the market influences the commodification of art objects. For the analysis, it was conducted 16 interviews with representatives of the art market and participants in art fairs: collectors, artists, gallery owners, and students of art academies. The analysis showed that the boundaries of the field are blurred (but with the highlighted hierarchy inside), and the relationship between the participants affects the process of forming the value of the art object. Artists identify them with their work, the collector brings business practices to the market; that is why a “two-faced” reality is formed and the object of the art market perceived as a commodity and a symbolic object at the same time. In addition, several factors influencing the pricing of the art object were identified.

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