Souvenirs Made In, Lara Badurina
Souvenirs Made In
Lara Badurina


Oliver Musoviќ

Cardboard Maps
Ferhat Özgür

Original Adidas
Vlad Nanca

K9 Compassion
Zlatko Kopljar

On "Kiezism"
Ingo Vetter and Annette Weisser

Billboard Heaven, Luchezar Boyadjiev
Billboard Heaven
Luchezar Boyadjiev


Souvenirs Made In
Lara Badurina

To Transform the Political Speech in Facts, Finally.
Carlos Garaicoa

Model City
Bik Van der Pol

Hilary Koob-Sassen



Cultural Globalization between Myth and Reality: The Case of the Contemporary Visual Arts

I. Introduction

Soon after the concept of globalisation ascended to one of the “most fashionable buzzwords of contemporary political and academic debate” (Scheuerman 2002), it began to fuel discursive effects in the art field as well.[1] During the last decade the world of “international contemporary art” increasingly began to understand itself as part of a “global” space, with globally recruited artists, globally acting curators, and Biennales spread around the four corners of the world (cf. Griffin 2003, Bydler 2004, Sassen 2004, Wu 2005). With the documenta 11 in Kassel in 2002 at the latest, globalisation became a popular, widely used term among art critics and curators for depicting recent tendencies in the artistic field. We want to scrutinize whether this talk not only reflects a new discursive trend, but also corresponds to changes in the social organization of the field of art. To what extent has the globalisation of the art field actually progressed? What structural consequences do the presumed changes bring about? We will begin with a short introduction into the general social scientific discourse on globalisation and then outline aspects of the discussion on cultural globalisation in order to develop a theoretical framework. Afterwards, we will trace how the art field itself has discussed the issue of art and globalisation before we will critically dissect some of its strong claims empirically.

2. Discourses on (Cultural) Globalisation

Meanwhile, the social scientific discourse on globalisation has produced a large body of literature with a great variety of definitions of the very phenomenon it purports to analyse. Some of the more prominent accounts of conceptualizing globalisation refer to ideas such as “actions, that is to say, the effects of actions over distances”, “time and space compression”, “global integration” and “accelerated interdependence”, a “new order of inter-regional power relationships” or to a subjective factor such as “the increasing consciousness of the global condition” (cf. Held and McGrew 2000, p. 3). One definition, which encompasses temporal as well as spatial aspects, conceives globalisation as a “process of the deepening and acceleration of boundary crossing transactions (…) which incurs simultaneous spatial expansion” (Menzel 2001, p. 226). Another approach pays especially attention to increasing reciprocal interdependencies, thus writing in the tradition of theories of differentiation by Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim: “Globalisation refers to a set of processes that increasingly makes the parts of the world interdependently integrated” (Roberts and Hite 2000, p. 16). In addition, one finds theoretical perspectives, which seek to connect objective aspects of the globalisation process with changes of subjective consciousness. According to Robertson (1992, p. 8), for instance, globalisation “refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole.” Lechner in turn (2005, p. 330) conceives it as “the worldwide diffusion of practices, expansion of relations across continents, organisation of social life on a global scale, and growth of a shared global consciousness.” The work by Allan Cochrane and Kathy Pain considers a variety of important dimensions, except subjective aspects. In their view globalisation denotes the expansion of social relationships beyond regional and national state borders. It leads to growing density of worldwide interaction, made possible by electronic flows and communication networks. Moreover, the increasing availability of products from vastly distant cultures, the rise in migration and the strengthening of a global infrastructure that the operation of emergent globalised networks permits have a growing interpenetration of people as their consequence (cf. Cochrane and Pain 2000, pp. 15ff.).

All these definitions of dominant versions of the academic globalisation discourse share an essential difference to previous, more conflict orientated theories like dependency theory, imperialism or world system theories which likewise dealt with inter- and trans-national as well as with global processes without, however, using the term globalisation (cf. Frank 1971, Wallerstein 1979, Galtung 1980). Instead of critically highlighting social polarisation, one-sided dependencies, and asymmetrical relationships between social units – such as centres, semi-peripheries, and peripheries in world system theory – globalisation theories especially emphasize integration, reciprocal interdependencies or a commonly shared consciousness. Giddens, for example, who early advocated the use of the term globalisation (cf. Giddens 1990), stresses interdependency when connecting globalisation with “the intensification of worldwide social relations and interdependences. Globalization refers to the fact that we are increasingly living in one world, where our actions have consequences for others and the world’s problems have consequences for us” (Giddens 2001, p. 74).

Nevertheless, after its assertion on a broader basis, the concept of globalisation began partly to play a role within the frame of critical theories against which it was originally created as well. Yet, whereas critical sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu or Immanuel Wallerstein considered globalisation being a myth or an imposed discourse, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt deploy the term in an attempt to conceptualise a new era of global domination. Others, like Galtung (2000a) in his more recent work, try to combine critical and descriptive approaches, what we consider to be a fruitful idea.

In a lecture in Athens in 1996 Bourdieu denounced the talk of “globalisation” as “a myth in the strongest sense of the word”, as a “power discourse, an idea power” (Bourdieu 1998, p. 34), a position that he repeated in Tokio in 2000, when he stressed, that “globalization” is a “descriptive as well as prescriptive pseudo-concept, which by now replaces the notion ‘modernization’” (Bourdieu 2003, p. 202). Correspondingly, Bourdieu coined the notion of a “politics of globalisation”, underlining that there are no determinist social laws or tendencies and that there are alternatives to this kind of politics. In a similar way, Immanuel Wallerstein adopts a rather sceptical attitude towards the discourse on globalization: “The 1990's have been deluged with a discourse about globalization. We are told by virtually everyone that we are now living, and for the first time, in an era of globalization. We are told that globalization has changed everything: the sovereignty of states has declined; everyone's ability to resist the rules of the market has disappeared; our possibility of cultural autonomy has been virtually annulled; and the stability of all our identities has come into serious question. This state of presumed globalization has been celebrated by some, and bemoaned by others. This discourse is in fact a gigantic misreading of current reality - a deception imposed upon us by powerful groups, and even worse one that we have imposed upon ourselves, often despairingly.” Wallerstein (1999). On the other hand, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt (2000, p. XI) not only point to a new, sovereign global power, namely “Empire”, but they also stress in a rather deterministic manner an “inexorable and irreversible globalisation of economic and cultural exchange processes.” By contrast to preceding critical macro-theories, however, they maintain that this form of power cannot be identified with a territorially delineated centre; it rather signifies a decentralised and deterritorialised apparatus of domination: “In contrast to imperialism, Empire establishes no territorial centre of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers” (p. XII). Aside from their attention to domination, Negri’s and Hardt’s thesis of deterritorialisation converges with assumptions of mainstream globalisation theory. In a popular textbook on the subject, for example, Waters underlines that the specificity of globalisation lies in the fact that it results in “greater connectedness and deterritorialisation” (Waters 1995, p. 136).

George Ritzer sought to challenge mainstream theories of globalisation in a slightly different way. He reproaches them to identify globalisation primarily with symmetrical flows or more or less balanced interactions of the local with the global. Such accounts would ignore the imperialist expansion tendencies of nation-states or enterprises, their ambitions to power, influence and profit as well as the hegemonic relations thereby established. Accordingly, Ritzer (2004) launched the term “grobalisation” (in contrast to “glocalisation”), which links globalisation with growth and which refers to similar processes of power and influence as specified in theories of dependency, world system, or imperialism. The driving sub-processes of such “grobalization” processes are, however, not located in a quasi anonymous, non-territorial power structure (like in the approach of Negri and Hardt), but attributed to the dynamics of capitalism (cf. e. g. Amin 2001), Americanisation (cf. e. g. Bourdieu 2003), Western cosmology (cf. Galtung 1996), or McDonaldisation (cf. Ritzer 1993, 2004).

Nevertheless, these critical approaches did not develop an analytically specific perspective on the very process that we are primarily interested in, namely cultural globalisation in the more narrow sense of culture. Yet, different social spheres (e.g. economy, politics, popular culture, art) display dissimilar, relatively autonomous development patterns, which are not reducible to each other. That is one of the reasons why theoretical approaches, which are based on the idea of social differentiation, in contrast to anti-differentiation approaches like e. g. those of Wallerstein or Giddens seem to be especially fruitful for the analyses of questions regarding the globalisation of culture and art. Arjun Appadurai (1996), for example, distinguishes in his globalisation studies between flows of images, histories and information (“mediascapes”), flows of cultural and political ideologies (“ideoscapes”), finance flows (“finanscapes”), and flows of migrants, tourists and refugees (“ethnoscapes”). All these “disjunctive” flows proceed according to “their own restrictions and incentives”. For our purposes, however, Appadurai’s initial differentiation does not go far enough. Considering the flow of images, for instance, it is in no way irrelevant whether one deals with flows in high art (e.g. the fine arts) or popular art (e.g. film, TV, popular music). Perhaps in regard to this omission, Appadurai later introduced the term “artscape” (Appadurai 2003, p. 236). Yet in comparison with the field concept (cf. Martin 2003), which Bourdieu (1993, 1996) and his school (e. g. Verger 1987, Pinto (ed.) 2002) heavily employed for the analysis of art and legitimate culture, the notion “artscape” appears diffuse. It tends to underestimate relations of power as well as processes of asymmetric exchange and “inchange” – the intra-actor effects of exchange and interaction.

The tendency to disregard aspects of power and conflict can also be discerned in Diana Crane’s meta-typology of models of cultural globalisation which pays great attention to approaches emphasising positive aspects and externalities of globalisation processes. Against cultural imperialism theories, she especially highlights accounts like those of Appadurai. According to Crane they stress more or less symmetrical interactions within cultural flows or networks: “In contrast to cultural imperialism theory in which the source of cultural influence is Western civilisation, with non-Western and less developed countries viewed as being on the periphery – as the receivers of cultural influences – the cultural flows or network model offers an alternative conception of the transmission process, as influences that do not necessarily originate in the same place or flow in the same direction. Receivers also may be originators. In this model, cultural globalization corresponds to a network with no clearly defined center or periphery (see, for example, Appadurai 1990). Globalization as an aggregation of cultural flows or networks is a less coherent and unitary process than cultural imperialism and one in which cultural influences move in many directions. The effect of these cultural flows, which Arjun Appadurai identifies as consisting of media, technology, ideologies, and ethnicities on recipient nations is likely to be cultural hybridisation rather than homogenisation” (Crane 2002, pp. 3f.). In addition, Crane points to reception theories as they are typically found in the mass media research wing of Cultural Studies (cf. e.g. Barker 2000, pp. 114 ff., 259 ff.). They tend to emphasise the sovereignty of consumers in the appropriation of globally distributed cultural goods, or the cultural embeddedness of reception processes (cf. Wu 2005 for contrasting mass media and art reception in this respect). It seems worth stressing that Crane’s portrayal of cultural imperialism theories is much too simplistic as she argues that they would operate with the assumption of conscious domination intentions. Yet, there are complex and highly sophisticated imperialism theories which are neither actor-oriented nor intentionalist but emphasise structure, as for example, the position in a (worldwide) division of labour, that is to say, the position in global exchange and inchange processes. These approaches are dedicated to the analysis of the effects of differing structural positions for systems reproduction and the intended as well as paradoxical outcomes with respect to the units involved. Crane ignores elaborated dependency and world system theories such as those of Johan Galtung (1980) or Samir Amin (2001). Both approaches are based on homogenisation assumptions but do not rely on those binary centre-periphery models, attributed to this tradition by Crane and a broad cultural studies literature following Tomlinson (1991).

In our view, however, the analytical options highlighted by Crane are not satisfying as they tend to capture globalisation processes in a one-sided, euphemising way. For specifying the implications of globalisation in the realm of high art, we will therefore operate with conflict theoretical tools and perspectives, like Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘field of art’. Generally spoken, Bourdieu conceives the realm of cultural production as a “game” functioning according to a relatively autonomous logic of competitive exchanges. The concept of the field of art is in so far especially fruitful for analysing effects of international exchange processes as it does not rely on an interactionist perspective but conceptualises the dynamics of high-culture as objectively and relationally structured by the unequal distribution of artistic and symbolic capital. Bourdieu elaborated these notions and a general theory of cultural fields in the context of his analysis of the French literary and artistic sphere (cf. Bourdieu 1996). In connection with Pascale Casanova’s (2004) further elaboration of this approach for as the space of world literature, it promises to offer a fruitful theoretical framework for analysing the relationship between globalisation and the field of art.

One of the central debates in the literature on cultural globalisation concerns the question whether high or popular arts have progressed further with regard to globalisation processes. On the one hand, Victoria Alexander holds that popular culture demonstrates more distinct signs of globalisation by dint of its highly commercial and heteronomous nature: “Fine arts circulate internationally in patterns considerably different from those of the popular arts. One obvious difference is that the markets for fine arts are smaller and more decentralised. Moreover, the global context is highly commercial, and while non-commercial art is part of the global economy, it plays a relatively minor role in it” (Alexander 2003, pp. 166f.). David Held and his collaborators assess the difference between high and popular culture in a similar way: “Elite cultures, high culture, academic and scientific cultures (...) are drowned in the high seas of business information systems and commercialised popular culture. No historic parallel exists for such intensive and extensive forms of cultural flow that are primarily forms of commercial enrichment and entertainment” (Held et al. 1999, p. 368). On the other hand, Malcolm Waters maintains precisely the opposite thesis in his standard work on globalisation theory. By referring to cultural diffusion processes at the end of the last century, he arrives at the conclusion that high culture has played the role of an avant-garde in cultural globalisation: “By the end of the 19th century, a global but mainly European cultural tradition had been established in which the same music, the same art and the same literature and science were equally highly regarded in many parts of the globe. (…) However, popular culture remained nation-state specific until the development of cinematographic and electronic mass mediation” (Waters 1995, pp. 142f.). Waters’ claim is echoed in recent German cultural sciences in which the higher degree of globalisation in the realm of high culture, specifically that of the fine arts, is particularly emphasised: “In almost no other sphere of culture is the shrinking of North and South, of East and West so intense as in the fine arts” (Kramer 2001, p. 178).

While it is beyond the scope of this contribution to empirically compare the level of globalisation in popular culture and high culture, Waters’ remarks sensitise for another main question at stake in debates around globalisation: the question of its beginning and of decisive historical breaks. One may derive very different assumptions about the kind and extent of globalisation processes whether one conceptualises them as a phenomenon of the end of the 19th century or of most recent history as, for example, Appadurai (2003, p. 234) does: “When I talk about the ‘age of globalisation’, I wish with that to describe an historical break which is registered in the last half of the recently ended century and here, above all, in the last twenty years.” Sociological or historical approaches on the macro-level even hold that globalisation began very much earlier in history. Thus, not infrequently, it is related to Western expansion or to the development of (proto)capitalism around 1500 (cf. e. g. Muldoon 1991, Hall 2003) or to Western modernity (cf. e. g. Giddens 1990). Some authors, such as the economist André Gunder Frank, who is known for having coined the phrase the “development of underdevelopment” in the 1960s, object to such assumptions that they are implicitly based on the supposition of European exceptionalism and Euro-centrism already present in the works of such differing economists and sociologists as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber and Immanuel Wallerstein (cf. Frank 1998, pp. 12ff.). His rational choice approach, embedded in a macro-historical frame, stresses that global connections, at least at the level of trade, are a more ancient phenomenon which can be traced back 5000 years ago, a period in which Europe belonged to the periphery, while East Asia dominated the world trade. Accordingly, theorists like Gunder Frank who operate with macro historical perspectives of the longue durée appear to be little impressed by developments of the most recent period such as the emergence of new communication technologies which, according to Appadurai, initiated a deep historical break during the last two decades. Against such kind of theories, Frank (1998, p. 343) emphasizes on the base of his empirical material: “The currently fashionable “globalisation” thesis has it that the 1990s mark a new departure in this worldwide process. (…) Yet this book demonstrates that globalism (even more than globalisation) was a fact of life since at least 1500 for the whole world, excepting a few sparsely settled islands in the Pacific (though only a little while).”

Part of the dissent surrounding the question of the beginning of globalisation is doubtless due to the fact, that some processes have their origins centuries ago, while others can be dated to the 19th and 20th centuries. Most social scientists meanwhile take more or less a middle position between the extreme poles delineated on the one side e. g. by Frank (1998) and Friedman (1994), and on the other by Appadurai (1999). The main-stream position is well expressed in the following statement by Victoria Alexander (2003, p. 158): “The process of globalisation is not new, although global flows have increased to an unprecedented level.” Stuart Hall takes a similar position while providing a more precise framework for the different phases of globalisation. Yet he thereby adopts the common Western social science, Euro-centric position concerning the origins of capitalism and modernity (cf. the critical views on Euro-centrism in the social sciences of Amin 1989, Blaut 2000, Collins 1999).

In Hall’s (2003, p. 193) perspective, globalisation dates back to “the moment when Western Europe breaks out of its confinement, at the end of the 15th century, and the era of exploration and conquest of the non-European world begins. (…) Somewhere around 1492 we begin to see this project as having a global rather than a national or continental character (…)” However, this thesis is connected to the assumption of an acceleration of globalisation in recent time. On that basis, he differentiates between four periods following that historical break. After the initial phase in about 1500, processes of globalisation enter a second phase characterised by formal and informal colonisation. The third phase, after the Second World War, is marked by the decline of European empires that were dominant during the second phase. The fourth period, which is of greatest concern for our research referring to the field of contemporary art begins for Hall in “its radically reconstructed, transnational form in the mid-1970s.” To this phase, “the current one”, he assigns “the title of ‘Globalisation tout court’” (p. 194). Whereas earlier phases were characterised by conquest, trade, direct colonisation and informal rule, the new global system operates via the market, geopolitical and global management, and strategic military intervention. According to Hall, culture and the economy permeate each other, the “movement of power is inseparable from the movement of images, the movement of capital, and the movement of information”. In the “new globalisation” of the fourth period everything appears to be in motion. Even migration has witnessed an explosive increase, although it is, as Hall is thoroughly aware, fundamentally subject to restrictions. In contrast to the authors of Empire, the US are seen as the centre of influence of the informal networks during the most recent phase of globalization: “Though Hardt and Negri describe it as a system with no center, post-September 11 developments suggest that it is a global system in which the US as the only global superpower has overwhelming influence.” (Hall 2003, p. 195). While there are problems with Hall’s dating of the beginning of globalisation around 1500, his general framework may serve us as a reference-point for chronologically anchoring our analysis in the fourth globalisation period without, however, presupposing a radical historical break in Appadurai’s sense.

3. The field of Art and Globalisation

In the first decade of Hall’s posited fourth globalisation phase, the artist and critic Rasheed Araeen – who went on to become the editor of Third Text – railed against what he considered to be a myth, namely the “Internationalism” of contemporary art. In his manifesto presented in 1978 at the ICA in London he stated: “The myth of the internationalism of Western art has to be exploded. (…) Western art expresses exclusively the peculiarities of the West (…) It is merely a transatlantic art. It only reflects the culture of Europe and North America. The current ‘Internationalism’ of Western art is nothing more than a function of the political and economic power of the West, enforcing its values on other people. (…) The word international should mean more than just a couple of Western countries (...)” (Araeen 1997 (1978), p. 98). Since the time of Araeen’s intervention, the field of art, without doubt, has undergone some changes. In recent years, protagonists in the art world increasingly began to associate this dynamics with the emergence of a new, global art space, which would profoundly challenge the predominance of North-Western art. Marc Scheps, for example, asserts in the context of the highly ambitiously organised exhibition Global Art that a strong globalisation had taken place over the two previous decades. The exhibition, curated by Scheps, took place in 2000 in one of the institutional centres of the European art field, namely the Peter Ludwig Museum in Cologne. In an essay for the exhibition’s hefty accompanying catalogue he writes that since the 1980s art entered a “global presence” which manifests itself in the heightened mobility of artists, in exhibitions of non-Western art in the West as well as in the dissemination of activities of art institutions in non-Western countries. Accordingly, Scheps concludes that non-Western art contexts have become increasingly integrated into a symmetrical worldwide cultural network of connections. Moreover, since 1989, he tells us, art has led a “global dialogue”, enabled through a new visual language, that is to say through new media and new forms of artistic practices such as video, computer or installation art (cf. Scheps 1999, pp. 16 ff.).

Similarly, Christian Kravagna, one of the leading European art critics who has concerned himself most intensely with non-Western contemporary art, posits a remarkable change in the art field since the late 1980s, especially with respect to the greater inclusion of actors from countries outside the North-Western corne of the world. He observes a rapid transition from the invisibility of non-European artists to an excessive visibility in numerous exhibitions of art of different regions or in projects, in which “Western and non-Western art are exhibited alongside each other under the sign of ‘global art’” (Kravagna 2004, p. 98; see also Kravagna 2002). In spite of its neo-primitivist alignment, he thereby regards Hubert Martin’s exhibition, Magiciens de la Terre (Paris, 1989), as a decisive turning point. Kravagna furthermore states that non-Western curators, critics and artists are more and more actively involved in the international business of contemporary art exhibitions.

Yilmaz Dziewior (1999, p. 345), a Hamburg based critic and curator, notes a far greater participation of non-occidental artists in large mainstream exhibitions particularly since the 1990s, citing, for instance, the Venice Biennial and Documenta in Kassel. This tendency attained its climax with documenta 11 in 2002, organised by the diaspora intellectual Okwui Enwezor. Also in Kravagna’s (2002, p. 99) view, the nomination of Enwezor as artistic director marked a fundamental change: “When the USA residing Nigerian curator was chosen as the leader of documenta 11, this was a clear sign of an opening to non-Western perspectives. (…) In a background of questions on Western representation and reception of African art Enwezor’s appointment holds great significance for a general development if one realises that almost half a century of documenta history up to 1992 had passed before the invitation of two African artists to documenta 9.”

Given these statements, it seems to be not surprising that a discussion[2] in one of the leading art-market journals, namely Artforum, classified documenta 11 along with the Venice Biennale and a number of so-called “peripheral biennales” of the last decades (like the Biennales and Triennales of Sao Paolo, Brisbane, Dakkar, Havanna, Tirana, Vilnius, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Cairo and Kwang Ju, cf. Bydler 2004) as examples of a newly emerging type of “global exhibitions”; not only because of the very choice of the main curator and the inclusion of non-Western artists, but also for the reason that they took place in locations all over the world (like documenta 11 with its “platforms” in Europe, Africa, Asia, and in the Caribbean region) and that they dealt with issues closely associated with the globalisation discourse: “This type of exhibition, endowed with a transnational circuitry, assumed the unique position of both reflecting globalism – since these shows happen in locations throughout the world, however remote – and taking up globalism itself as an idea” (Griffin 2003, p. 153).

For Hou Hanru (1999), tendencies of a globalising art field were especially revealed through the proliferation of art biennales outside Europe and North America since the 1980s as well as the example of the New York Guggenheim Museum, which expanded in the 1990s, when the generalization of its “Bilbao strategy” (cf. Thon 2004), still appeared possible to pursue.


The worldwide proliferation of biennales is an interesting phenomenon in connection with the question of the globalization of the field of art. That is why we collected data on this process and depicted some of them in figure 1. The “biennalization of the art world” starts, according to this data, documented in more detail in Buchholz (2005, pp. 67ff.), in the midth of the 1980ies. Since this time the curves of the number of biennales show upwards not only in the “West”, but also in the “rest” (for this differentiation cf. Hall 1992, p. 280). Whereas in 1980 there were three biennales of contemporary art in the Northwest of the world, and one in the Southwest, one in the Southeast and one in the Northeast. In 2005 the number of biennales had risen from 6 to 49 and the distribution was as follows: 19 in the Northwest, 10 in the Northeast, 9 in the Southeast and 11 in the Southwest.[3] This process clearly indicates a tendency of globalization.

In a recent study art historian and critic Charlotte Bydler (2004) has provided a comprehensive summary of indicators showing an advancement of globalisation in the field of contemporary art. Her inquiry is not based on quantitative data, but upon “insider perspectives” by curators and critics. It focuses on the globalisation of the field’s institutional structures. Bydler not only mentions the rise of “international exhibitions”, but also refers to other, less well-illuminated aspects in the art discourse. Thus, she highlights the emergence of an international job market for artists and curators as well as the growing establishment of international residence and exchange programmes. She informs that these last two changes largely rest upon specific legal privileges for artists and curators which, in the face of usually highly restrictive immigration legislation, facilitated the heightened artistic mobility. Her remarks remind that the worldwide circulation of people in contrast to the movement of capital and goods is still subject to severe legal regulations, a discrepancy which induced Samir Amin (2001) to speak of a “halved globalisation”.

The assumption of a globalising art field is also supported by the sparse sociological literature on the subject. Focussing on the dynamics of the art market, the French sociologist Raymonde Moulin captures the development of the last three decades as a trend towards a growing web of international interdependencies, fostering the circulation of people and artefacts beyond national boundaries. She writes: “The specificity of the last three decades, lies in the fact that the art market regarding extremely expensive works as well as contemporary works, does not function anymore as coexistence of national markets, which communicate with each other more or less quite well, but like a global market. Each national artistic space is embedded in a world wide system of cultural and economic exchange processes. The circulation of people, works and information, favours the networking of the market” (Moulin 2003, p. 81). Saskia Sassen (2004) observed, that the proliferation of art biennales caused an “intensified transnational engagement of artists, curators, museums and cities” as well as to the rise of “a transnational class of curators”.

Considering all the aforementioned objective indicators in the frame of the concept of globalisation provided by Allan Cochrane and Kathy Paine, one arrives at the conclusion that one may indeed speak of a globalisation of the field of art: First, the dissemination of new art biennales in non-Western countries and the international spread of art institutions like the Guggenheim museum (even if these expansionist tendencies stopped in the meantime), seem to correspond with the idea that globalisation involves spatial extension of social relationships. Secondly, the heightened mobility of artists and curators, the emerging worldwide communication network, and the rise of a job market as well as an art market that transgress national borders all appear to indicate what Cochrane and Paine considered as a crucial dimension of globalisation processes, namely the increasing density of social interactions, partly based on new electronic communications technologies. And, last but not least, the fact that non-Western artists and curators have been more and more included in mainstream exhibitions and also in so-called new “global exhibitions” during the last 20 years seems to resonate with the thesis that globalisation typically results in greater cultural interpenetration.

But, do these tendencies justify the assumption that the field of art has entered a global age in which old centre-periphery structures become obsolete or the unequal distribution of power between Western and non-Western art contexts dissolves? This is what the statements of Marc Scheps seem to imply: “An emerging network is replacing the structure of centre and periphery. The nodes of this network consist of cultural and artistic centres that can communicate with each other at any time in a non-hierarchical way. (…) The disappearance of the categories of centre and periphery implicates that the differentiation between the West and the Non-West will become historical memory“ (Scheps 1999, p. 20). These claims are echoed by Dziewior (1999, p. 345) who postulates “a slow, but continual dissolving of the traditional division of centre and periphery”.

Yet, there are also some critical voices in the art field, which call such assessments strongly into question and refuse to participate in the euphoria around the globalisation of the artistic field. Georg Schoellhammer (1999), for example, editor of the Austrian culture and art magazine springerin, argues that although international exhibitions and trade transports have made previously unexposed art scenes visible in the West, this trend does not significantly alter inclusion and exclusion relationships in the field of art; in his view, it rather serves to obfuscate their persistence.

Especially among the diaspora intellectuals involved in the art field there is a wide-spread scepticism regarding the idea that its structure and functioning has determinedly changed. Thus, in the middle of the 1990s, the artist and critic Everlyn Nicodemus (1995, p. 12) saw no reason for being optimistic about inclusion tendencies with regard to third-world intellectuals: “In the Western art field, the tendencies we observe today, its closed circuits and the extension of its power structure – an internationalisation that seems to counteract rather than facilitate an opening up to a new inter-cultural internationalism – does not inspire great optimism.”

Gerardo Mosquera, co-founder of the Havana Biennale, in the meantime active in New York, still the “centre of the centre” (Galtung) of the art field, maintains that the field of art finds itself in a state of transition far from entailing broader participation: “What is called the international art scene and the international artistic language reveals a hegemonic construct of globalism more than true globalisation, understood as a generalised participation.” (Mosquera 2003, p. 145).

Although it has become routine for some artists to exhibit worldwide, the situation should not be overestimated. On the one hand, the number of artists involved remains relatively insignificant. On the other hand, existing structures could only be challenged if these artists gained real agency, that is to say, if they obtained the necessary amount of symbolic capital and symbolic power in order to take part in the truly relevant moves of the art game: “Regional and international art circulation has dramatically expanded through a variety of spaces, events, networks, circuits, and electronic communications. (…) Nevertheless, the fact that a certain number of artists coming from every corner of the world are now exhibiting internationally only means, in itself, a (not so dramatic) quantitative internationalisation. But number is not the issue. The question for these new subjects is agency: the challenge of mutating a hegemonic and restrictive situation toward active and enriching plurality, instead of being digested not only by the mainstream, but also by new non-mainstream establishments” (Mosquera 2003, p. 146).

Apart from the question of actual structural changes, several critics in the art field argue that increasing “cultural interpenetration” did not bear any noteworthy effects on the power structure as well; it would be still the Western representational regime that dictates modes of appropriation of non-Western art, and it would be still the symbolic power of the West that attributes non-occidental art the role of playing its ‘exotic’, but nevertheless self-assuring “other”. Elsbeth Courth, for example, who as a curator and writer participated in the exhibition Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa in London (cf. Deliss 1995), observes that Western primitivist projections still play a significant role in the increasing number of exhibitions of (previously ignored) modern and contemporary African art since the 1990s. Whereas an old modernist canon of the African ‘tribal’ sculpture has been overcome, the fact that “notions of ‘authenticity’ continue to be applied in this area indicates that the old paradigm still retains some force” (Court 1999, p. 157).

In a similar way, Christian Kravagna (2004) arrives at the assessment that the heightened visibility of non-Western art is not only due to post-colonial discourses of deconstruction, but also to an ethno boom and fashion trend for exoticism. Thus, an increasing attention to non-Western art appears to be also determined by neo-primitivist impulses, which exalt an imaginary, irrational “otherness” to Western reason. The ethnologist Jonathan Friedman, who is close to world system theory, goes so far as to establish a tight connection between the manufacture of such neo-primitivism and the postmodernist discourses of the last decades in the West. He grasps the postmodernist pole of the cultural logic of the global system by contrast to the modern and traditional poles in the following way: “It defines the primitive as all that freedom from civilised control is meant to be, the confusion of the sexes, the liberation of infantile desire and its capacity for merging with the other, the expression of immediate feeling, a social existence based on communion rather than social distance. The conception of the modern here is that of culture as a set of imprisoning constraints, culture as opposed to nature, and repressive of nature. As such this position is also opposed to traditionalism, which is conceived as an expression of increased control, a reaction to the false freedom generated by modernity” (Friedman 1994, pp. 98f.).

Other critics in turn warn to become absorbed in questions of representation or symbolic politics and plead to pay more attention to the fundamental structures of the art system itself. For Rashed Araeen there is no doubt that the consideration of non-Western artists on the international scene has grown since the decade when he recited the ICA-Manifesto in the late 1970s. The “young, post-colonial artists from Africa or Asia” are no longer segregated from their white/European counterparts: “Both of them display and circulate within the same space and the same art market, recognised and legitimated by the same institutions” (Araeen 2001, p. 23). In his view, the concomitant glorification of difference bears no other effect than the erection of “thick walls of multiculturalism” which serve to protect existing structures. In addition, Araeen not only dismisses the “politics of identity”, as propagated from Stuart Hall to Homi Bhabha’s “post-colonial theory”, but also questions the Third Text’s publication policy. It is important to change the system itself, not just the social representation within the system. For him, the art system represents Third World artists meanwhile to an adequate extent: “There is no point in us representing what is already represented by the system. Third Text should not be considered a ‘black’ art magazine; neither are we representing what is geographically described as ‘Third World’. It was perhaps a mistake our trying to represent what was no longer definable in geographical terms. It should not be our responsibility to represent artists just because they are from the Third World. However, we should continue to publish critical material about artists whose work has been neglected and suppressed” (Araeen 2000, p. 19).

In contrast to Araeen, artist and writer Olu Oguibe even questions that a decisive change has taken place regarding the amount of non-Western artists represented in the dominant institutions of the art field. Oguibe draws on the notion of “culture game”, which reminds of the game concept used in Bourdieu’s (1993, 1996) field theory. According to Oguibe a presumably global cultural game neither did lead to equal visibility, nor to accessibility. And, the sparse tendencies of inclusion observable have not ceased to follow a hegemonic logic: The art field merely opens some “rationed slots”, a certain contingent number of acquisitions of museums as well as a token number of places at important exhibitions. Selection processes themselves are guided by the stigmatising emphasis on the ethnic or regional background of non-Western artists, a procedure that strikingly differs from the selection of their Western colleagues. Inquiring into the backstage of the culture game, Oguibe eventually holds, one discovers that it is the cynical calculation of an essentially closed field which gives rise to recurrent inclusion tendencies. Oguibe’s observations deserve to be cited in-depth as they put the shared assumption of increasing inclusion tendencies by Scheps, Araeen and others, though they are embedded in different explanatory frames, thoroughly into perspective: “The culture game operates on a number of related levels. There is the systemic, structural level where it is methodologically implemented and perpetuated by contemporary art institutions through acquisitions, programming, criticism, and general discourse. On this level the game may take the form of minimal exhibition allocations for art that comes from a particular province or constituency. Such slots, it appears, are rationed over ten-year periods, and because the opportunity to display is so rare, it becomes the tendency to seek to remedy the situation by consigning all such work to humongous, inchoate, and badly conceived group or period exhibitions, after which heroic gestures institutions return to their regular, clinical programming, satisfied that they have paid their dues. In other words, every ten years over a designated period, there are huge African, Asian or Latin American exhibitions after which the pained rhetoric of institutions becomes, Well, but we just had an African or Asian or Latin American show! Having staged the routine decade shows, museums and galleries feel no further obligation to touch any art or artist from these provenances (…). Ultimately, things degenerate to a game of numbers: We had five Africans in the Biennale, seven Chinese, two Southeast Asians, and even two Australian Aborigines. We do our best to ensure that this year’s exhibition was representative. What is masked in such a seemingly liberal gesture is that Western artists are seldom subjected to the same game of numbers, unless of course, they too belong outside the mainstream: folk artists, Northwest artists, Native Americans, self-taught artists, prison artists” (Oguibe 2004, pp. XIIf.).

Oguibe’s assessment is partly echoed by a statement of Stuart Hall in the context of the documenta 11 platform in Santa Lucia. He thinks of the possibility that documenta 11 might not mark a real break in the history of exhibitions, but merely an interlude of “cultural diversity”: “There has been a certain, rather ambivalent, ‘globalisation’ of the art world. And yet, at the same time, this is a limited process, which only happens on certain strict terms. Huge spaces and gaps keep emerging. The agendas of inclusion are short-term and have a limited life and scope” (Hall 2003, pp. 198f.). Accordingly, it seems likely that such new “global exhibitions” do not signal the dawn of a global art world free from old structurings and inequalities, but merely one of the bigger “rationed slots” in the culture game.

4. Deconstructing myths. Some time series data on the art field in the “new globalisation” period (1970 – 2005)

One possibility to assess the impact of globalisation processes on the structure of the art field consists in scrutinising the dynamics of the distribution of symbolic capital among Western and non-Western artists (cf. Wuggenig 2005). Since 1970 the German business magazine Capital has offered empirical indicators by an annually published “artist-ranking”. This list of the worldwide top 100 artists called “Kunstkompass” (“art-compass”) registers the symbolic capital of artists on the basis of their presence and visibility in the international exhibition circuit. The results are based on the consideration of the representation of visual artists in individual or group exhibitions at important art institutions, as defined by the art-establishment, and secondarily, on their presence in leading art journals. In 2001, for instance, 160 art institutions, 130 group exhibitions and 5 art magazines were considered. First, the art institutions and group exhibitions are classified according to expert ratings. Then reputation scores according to these evaluations are assigned to them. In a second step the artists who display the highest frequency in these institutions/exhibitions with high reputation are determined. They too get scores expressing their symbolic capital. This measure of visibility and symbolic capital was first developed and applied by the German economist Willy Bongard, who as an art dealer also was part of the art field. Rohr-Bongard (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) continued the annual surveys after his death.

This procedure is the best available to differentiate the core of the art field, i.e. living artists with charismatic consecration based on the distinguished approval of the “art establishment”, from the periphery and semi-periphery of artists, who possess neither the symbolic capital nor the symbolic power that would enable them to participate with decisive moves in the games of the field or the “culture game” in the sense of Oguibe. Though not without problems (cf. Graw 2003), this method of determining the symbolic capital of artists, widely used in the economics of art (e. g. Frey and Pommerehne 1989, Klein 1993), appears to be sufficiently valid and reliable for our purpose, that is to say to analyse effects of the broadly assumed globalisation of the art field in the last decades on the level of the distribution of reputation and power. It concentrates on the dominant pole of the art field, on artists evaluated by professional critics and curators. It separates them from artists whose success is short-lived and coupled with the vicissitudes of fashion. And it also separates them from artists without reputation in the circles of insiders. The available empirical evidence on artistic recognition shows that in contrast to popular myths, like those on the fate of van Gogh (who in fact was highly respected by art field peers), lack of recognition by peers is a certain sign, that an artist will never become part of the (international) history of art (cf. Heinich 1991). It also demonstrates that high symbolic capital in the visual arts in the long run can regularly be converted into high economic capital (cf. Abbing 2004). In 1971, to give some examples for these rankings, the artists leading the list were Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Jean Tinguely and Yves Klein. In 1986 Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella could be found on the top. In 2000 Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, Rosemarie Trockel and Pipilotti Rist were ranked the highest (cf. Rohr-Bongard 2002, pp. 42, 72, 126), in 2005 Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Bruce Nauman, Rosemarie Trockel, Louise Bourgeois and Cindy Sherman were the living artists with the highest symbolic capital according to this measurement device (cf. Rohr-Bongard 2005, p. 169).

From the very beginning, the art-compass also displayed the artists’ “country of origin”, which allows us to address questions of inclusion and exclusion through origin and territorial criteria. For investigating the changes of social-spatial concentration over time, we again used the simple geographical model proposed by Johan Galtung. He drafted a world map that crosses the North-South with the East-West dichotomy, thus yielding “four corners of the world”. In this cartography, the “Northwest” encompasses Anglo-Saxon North America and Western Europe (countries of the EU in the borders before 2004); the “Northeast” includes the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Turkey, the former Soviet republics with a Muslim majority, Pakistan and Iran. The “Southwest” comprises Latin America, Mexico, the Caribbean, West Asia, the Arab world, Africa, South Asia and India; the “Southeast” East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, China and Japan (cf. Galtung 2000b, p.14.).

There exist at least two very different analytical perspectives for investigating globalisation effects. Whereas Allan Cochrane’s and Kathy Pain’s approach represents a process-oriented theory of globalisation, highlighting increasing spatial expansion as well as the intensification and the acceleration of interdependences, one could also deploy an ideal type model. Such a perspective conceptualises globalisation as an idealised state of universal order. It can be invoked as a point of reference for measuring the scale and limits of globalisation processes (cf. Held and McGrew 2000, p. 4).

It is characteristic for process-oriented approaches that they tend to exaggerate the scale and range of globalisation, since there is an inclination to compare the present with the (recent) past only. In addition they often concentrate on input factors while outcome factors like effects regarding hierarchy, inequality and polarisation for example, are largely ignored.

In view of this systematic bias we will dissect the question of effects not only on the basis of process-oriented approaches, but also with regard to ideal-type models of globalisation. A conception of an ideal typical state would read as follows: “At the end of the globalisation process there will be a single state world, formed by a population considering itself as one nation (or a world nation)” (Galtung 2000a, p. 42). For a start, we take a simple model. It would suggest high entropy of the social-spatial recruiting of actors occupying positions with high symbolic capital in the art field. Territorial borders and regional fixations should not play an important role. In such a world status is achieved and not based on ascription (e. g. gender, class, “race”, territory). The population of none of the major global regions should, by definition, have an advantage in advance. A possible yardstick would be the absolute irrelevance of territorial origin. Empirically this would imply a balanced recruitment of successful artists from all four corners of the world, and not, as Araeen stated in the 1970s, “from a select few Western countries”.

The number of artists in the Kunstkompass top 100 that do not originate from the Northwest can be used as an indicator for effects and implications of the much cited “forced” globalisation of the art field in the past decades. In addition, a test of the deterritorialisation proposition of postmodernist theory can also be carried out this way.




The figures 2–4 display the shares of artists from the Northeast, Southwest and Southeast in the list of the top 100 artists for the comparatively dynamic period between 1970 and 2005,[4] both individually for these three regions and as the sum for non-Euroamerican art.

The data represented in these figures first of all display the central finding that the sum of the shares of artists from non-Northwest countries – which reached its peak in 2002 – never exceeded 11%. Moreover, this share had already reached 8% in the early 1970s – making a difference of only 3% in 35 years of the “age of globalisation”. Instead of a linear or exponential increase, which the notion of a globalisation boom over the last three decades would imply, we can discern a U-shaped curve. From the middle 1970s, a time when the “international solidarity” of the new social movements was petering out in the West, a pronounced decline in the globalisation-effects is visible. This trend was only reversed in the 1990s. In this decade, changes in the distribution of symbolic capital first reached proportions that can be interpreted as being indicative of an increased globalisation of the international art field. However, the change in the 1990s should not be overestimated. The data for the last years show that the there is a stagnation around the relatively modest peak level of 10-11% since the late 1990s. Moreover, during the period which supporters of the globalisation thesis conceive as the “global age”, like e.g. Martin Albrow or Arjun Appadurai, artists from three of the four corners of the world, considered separately only reached shares of 5% at the maximum. This is demonstrated by the curves referring to artists from the Southwest, the Northeast and the Southeast in the figures 2, 3 and 4.

The data reveal the blatant exclusion of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Australia as well as Africa and Asia from the centre of the self proclaimed, global art-world. A sober examination of the distribution of positions in the centre of the art field clearly shows that inclusion processes have remained very modest. The chances of gaining a position in global art-history in the 20th or 21st century are strongly and systematically linked to territorial origin in the North-West. Moreover, taking the strong correlation between territory, culture, ethnicity or “race” into account, evidently a highly unequal social and cultural distribution of these chances persists. The Southeast (including Southern and Eastern Asia) shares only 3-5 % of ranked positions between 2000 and 2005. After its complete exclusion in the 1980s, the Northeast, including Russia and the Eastern European countries, is represented with only 3% for the period between 2000 and 2004. The “Southwest”, comprising Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, was represented by 3-4% from 2000 to 2005. This result also suffices to demonstrate that the strong visibility of African artists at documenta 11 in 2002 as well as in the Western exhibition circuit in the post-Magicien period after 1990 had no immediate bearing on their presence at the very centre of the field of art.

These data, indicating the distribution of symbolic capital in the international field of art provide rather conclusive proof of Olu Oguibe’s “Slot assumption”. For artists from African countries, for instance, there has been one single “slot” in the centre of the contemporary art-world since the late 1990s. This “regional slot” has been occupied by William Kentridge and by South Africa since 1998. In recent times this country has brought forth a number of artists who have been present on the contemporary-art circuit, if not present enough to be listed in the top 100 Capital ranking. Nevertheless, South Africa is not representative of the African continent as it is a “semi-periphery” – in the precise sense of Wallerstein’s (1979) world system perspective – and not a periphery. Structurally, semi-peripheral nations display characteristics of both central and peripheral nations. Two other countries that also correspond to this category are South Korea and Brazil. Like South Africa, both of them boasted one top-100 artist in 2004 (Nam June Paik and Ernesto Neto, respectively). Peripheral countries, or the “Fourth World” in the sense of Amin, however, do not appear at all in the ranking.

One position that opposes globalisation theses captures recent tendencies of transnational exchange as a process of “trilateral regionalisation”. It was put forward in the context of debates about economic globalisation. It also rests upon the fact that two thirds of all worldwide economic activities are concentrated in the “capitalistic triad”, the US, EU, and Japan (cf. Thompson 2000, pp. 110ff.). In the 1990s, these regions encompassed merely 15% of the global population. Samir Amin (2001) had this group of countries in mind when he spoke of a new “collective imperialism” replacing the old imperialism, which was marked by sharp internal antagonisms.


With regard to the centre of the art field, figure 5 illustrates to what extent it recruits from two of the economically powerful regions of this triad: the US and the EU. The sum of the triad’s proportional representation at the centre of the art field from 1970 to 2005 is between 82% and 95%. The respective figures for 2004 and 2005 are 86% and 87%. The statistics for the EU during the whole period of 1970 to 2004 encompass the 15 member states prior to the Union’s “Eastern Expansion” in 2004. Furthermore, Switzerland as a non-EU European country adds a significant share of 3% e.g. in the last three years to the curve depicted. Thus, the triad’s share of successful artists far outweighs even its share of global economic activity. Yet, if one interprets the economic concentration in these three regions as evidence against the globalisation thesis – which assumes a specific “ideal-type model” interpretation as opposed to a process-oriented one – in alluding to Hirst and Thomposon (1999), who speak of the “myth of economic globalisation” one could analogically speak of the “myth of globalisation of the field of art”.

However, the case of Japan with a share of 0-2% over all the globalisation period considered puts the analogy to trilateral globalisation slightly into perspective. Despite its economic rise in the 1970s and 1980s, the global visibility of artists from this country has not risen analogous to its economic upward mobility. From a quantitative perspective, its artistic presence in the art field equals that of semi-peripheral countries like Brazil or Korea. The recourse to “depth culture”, a theoretical construct of Galtung referring to cosmologies or civilizisations[5], could be fruitful for explaining the under-representation of a nation like Japan – in comparison with small European countries like Switzerland or Austria (2% in 2005), for example. High visibility in the field of art seems to be partly connected with economic power and partly with a cultural context characterised by a Christian-Jewish tradition, which in Galtung’s (1996) scheme is part of the occident I cosmology. The chances of attaining a high international profile are slight if one of these factors is not given. In Japan’s case the „adequate“ cosmology seems to be missing, whereas in Latin America’s case a privileged economic situation is absent. The interaction between economic and cultural factors becomes apparent when one considers the extremely low visibility of artists from economically underprivileged countries with no Christian-Jewish occident I tradition.

These observations allow two conclusions about processes of globalisation in the field of art. First, the importance of economic status suggests that structural factors are crucial for assessing the effects of cultural exchange processes. Contrary to theories of cultural globalisation, which stress symmetrical interactions within cultural flows or networks, the unequally distributed economic power and “distance to necessity” (Bourdieu) appears to be important. Notwithstanding, one should keep in mind that the art field functions in a relatively autonomous logic with regard to external economic as well as political influences: On the one hand, the worldwide allocation of legitimate symbolic capital is, as already noted, also bound up with contextual, cultural attributes. On the other hand, symbolic consecration in the (avant-garde) art field follows an essentially anti-economic logic, as not only Bourdieu’s critical theory (1996) but also French pragmatist sociology (cf. Heinich 2004) and the more enlightened approaches in the economics of art (cf. Chiapello 1993, Abbing 2004, Velthuis 2005) suggest. Thus, massive commercialisation of a national field of art may have negative effects on the degree of international reputation of its artists. As an example, figure 4 shows that the change of the position of US art does not correspond to the political and military ascent of the US to the “hegemon of hegemones” (Galtung) in the 1990s. Instead, the symbolic capital of US-art declined continuously since the 1970s.The proportion of artists from the US, ranked in the centre of the art field reached its peak in 1978 with nearly 50%, but has decreased since then to about 31%. As the time from the late 1970s was a period of strongly increasing corporate intervention in the US art market (e.g. corporate collecting, corporate sponsoring etc., cf. Wu 2002, pp. 47ff.), this loss of international influence may have been the price of the “heteronomisation” of the US-American field of art.

Secondly, the data suggest that international success in the field of art is still based on territorial, social and (macro)cultural characteristics, that is to say, highly contextual attributes. Economical and Cultural closure reigns, there is no “universalistic” foundation of access into the field. Thus, the field of art strikingly differs e. g. from a branch of the culture and entertainment industry like professional sports. There, numerous chances of success, visibility and symbolic capital (at the Olympic Games, for instance) for participants of non-Western, non capitalistic-triad, non Euro-American, non-Christian/Jewish cultural origin or a non-legitimate skin colour exist. Professional sports, a field of popular culture, therefore comparatively appears to embody a model of universalism, openness and formal equality of chances much more. Conversely, the field of art turns out to be one of the social spheres whose social mechanisms of selection blatantly contradict a “universalistic” logic, a feature that has been assumed to be a central characteristic of institutions of Western modernity. In the reception of the highly influential “pattern variables” of Talcott Parsons, ascription, particularism and collective orientation are accorded the status of traditional or “primitive” values, whereas self orientation, achievement and universalism are interpreted as modern ones (cf. Parsons 1951 and the use of his pattern variables for constructing the opposition of traditional vs. modern in Wallace and Wolff 1991, pp. 31ff. and Banuri 1990, p. 33).

According to our data, the Northwest clearly dominates the centre of the art field, headed by the EU-US dyad. Yet, the predominance of this region becomes even more apparent if one takes into account that the majority of non-Northwestern artists with high visibility lives (lived) and works (worked) in North-Western art metropolises, usually New York, but also London, Paris, Cologne and Berlin (cf. also the list of the residences of artists in the catalogue of documenta 11). Real bodily (and not only virtual) integration into one of these territorially demarcated areas – which are the centres of art production and the networks of weak and strong ties of artists, critics, curators and dealers – is in most cases a prerequisite for success and recognition in the field of contemporary art (cf. Giuffre 1999, Janssen 2001, Heinich 2004). As Raymond Moulin observes, one reason for the high territorial concentration of art centres in the West lies in the close interdependence of the art market and the financial market, which in turn, as Saskia Sassen (2000) has demonstrated, tends towards territorial concentration “The art market displays the two characteristics of being both internationalised and simultaneously centralised in a few world metropolis similar to the financial market network as both universes are interdependent” (Moulin 2003, p. 83.). Consequently, one realizes that greater international mobility of artists and curators - one of the indicators for the thesis of globalisation in the art field - does not weaken the territorial gravity of main North-Western art centres; nor does the proliferation of art biennales and art institutions outside countries of the Northwest alter the traditional cartography of centres and peripheries in the art field, as euphoric voices in the art world have suggested.

For globalisation theories that claim increasing deterritorialisation and that dismiss centre-periphery models (e.g. Hardt and Negri 2000), such regional concentrations represent “anomalies” in the Kuhnian sense which prove difficult to integrate. These highly speculative, theories ignore empirical evidence for the persistence of demarcated power centres. They also ignore, that networks are from being structures being free from hierarchy and exploitation, but are new means and media for highly asymmetric forms of exchange (cf. Boltanski / Chiapello 2005). In some versions of globalisation theory, regional concentrations of power – such as manifested in “global cities” (cf. Sassen 2000) – are even reinterpreted as indicators for increasing globalisation (cf. e.g. Cochran and Pain 2000, p. 17).

Centre-periphery models, however, not only allow grasping processes of compression and regional concentration, they also illuminate that the chances to benefit from emerging international “flows” are territorially unequally distributed. The migration of scientists and artists from the peripheries and semi-peripheries to the centres of the Northwest, for example, demonstrates a classical “brain-drain” pattern. Without doubt, it benefits the “centres of the centres” and the “centres of the peripheries” more than the “peripheries of the peripheries” (cf. Galtung 1980). The worldwide dissemination of art biennales and art institutions, in turn, does not necessarily mark a sign of globalisation to be celebrated. One could instead pose the question to what extent it implies patterns of cultural imperialism that involve the establishment of bridgeheads in centres of the peripheries, supported by a culturally penetrated indigenous elite. One could also ask, whether such cultural bridgeheads might serve the development of counter-power in the periphery, as Hou Hanru (1999, p. 347.) assumes, or whether the elites of the periphery tend to lose power due to globalisation: “The local representative (in the centre of the periphery, L. B. and U. W.) will become superfluous under conditions of trans-continental real-time communication; purchases will be made directly from the ’centre’, via internet, and delivery follows via centrally controlled channels. This poses a major threat to the ‘elite’ of the periphery” (Galtung 2000, p. 132). However, bearing in mind the limited importance of e-commerce and the still pronounced ‘digital gap’ (cf. Achhar et al (ed.) 2003, p. 10, Warnier 2004, p. 42.) this ‘centre-periphery’ scenario would appear to describe a development for the distant future.

Analysing the effects of internationalisation in the field of art suggests that typical assumptions of globalisation theories, such as deterritorialisation, the acceleration of worldwide interdependencies, or mutual interpenetration of cultural life, tend to obscure the reality of persisting asymmetries and power structures. What appears as the emergence of a global art field turns out to be the business of dyadic regionalization – associated with the worldwide establishment of some institutional satellites and restricted slots for non-occidental artists. The talk about the globalisation of art in important respects seems to refer to no more than a myth. Pragmatic sociology postulates that deconstructing such myths should not be the whole task for a scientific study of societies and their fields (cf. Heinich 2004). Sociology of art also is supposed to explore the logic of such myths in detail and to find out, why they can gain such high popularity in view of so much evidence to the contrary.


[1] The notion of globalization was introduced in the social sciences in the 1980s (cf. Rosenau 1980, Levitt 1983, Robertson 1983), and increasingly used since the early 1990s (cf. e. g. Albrow / King (eds.) 1990, Appadurai 1990, Featherstone (ed.) 1990, Giddens 1990, Sklair 1991, McGrew 1992).

[2] In this discussion the artists Martha Rosler, Yinka Shonibare as well as “a new class of curators” participated, who are active worldwide and thus have a worldwide status. Amongst them Okwui Enwezor, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Cathrine David and Franceso Bonami are listed.

[3] The four regions of the world were differentiated on the base of a cartography of Galtung (2000) in the following way: a) NORTHWEST: North America (USA, Canada), Western Europe (European Union in the borders after the inclusion of countries in 1995, not including the eastern countries, which only joined in 2004). b) SOUTHWEST: Latin America, Caribean Countries, Western Asia, Arab World, Africa, Southern Asia, India. c) NORTHEAST: former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran. d) SOUTHEAST: Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, Pacific Islands, China, Japan.

The “Rest” in figure 1 refers to SOUTHWEST + SOUTHEAST + NORTHEAST, the “West” to the NORTHWEST.

[4] The results for the 5 years (1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987) in which the rankings did not take place or were established using other criteria, have been determined by linear interpolation.

[5] The use of the notion of an unconscious depth-culture, in the sense of a cosmology, and contrary to surface culture based on debatable “ideologies” is, in this case, a reference to Galtung’s theory. The notion of deep culture is not essentialist as e.g. Menzel 2001 maintains. Galtung 2003, p. 9 emphasises that it is used as a theoretical construct, an “as-if” concept, in the sense of a fictive supposition that can be referenced for prediction purposes.





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