Art and the Politics of Eliminating Handicraft

In: Historical Materialism
Author: Dave Beech 1
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  • 1 Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg

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Abstract

This essay charts the outlines of the historical transition from the artisanal workshop to the artist’s studio and the transition from the artisan to the artist, not through the transition from patronage to the art market but through an analysis of the transformation of labour’s social division of labour. The essay reassesses the discourses on the artist as genius and the artist as worker through a reinterpretation of the elevation of the Fine Arts above handicraft. This sheds new light, also, on the discourse of deskilling in art. This essay argues that the transition from the artisan to the artist is an effect of the social division of labour in which the knowledge, skills and privileges of the master artisan are distributed among a set of specialists.

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