The New Institutional Theory of Art


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  • Title: The New Institutional Theory of Art
  • Author(s): David Graves
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Keywords: Logic of Art, Artists, Public, Art Creation, Art Presentation, Social-cultural context
  • Year: 2010
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-86335-721-0
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-86335-722-7
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Graves, David. 2010. The New Institutional Theory of Art. Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-86335-722-7/CGP.
  • Extent: 96 pages


Question: What do all works of art have in common? Answer: They are all products of a major cultural institution called “The Artworld”. Question: Is this what makes them art? Answer: Yes. The New Institutional Theory of Art is a different kind of theory about art. The theory is capable of explaining how it is that a urinal offered up by Marcel Duchamp, and a statue of Moses offered up by Michelangelo, are both works of art, and under precisely the same terms. Together with this, the theory can also explain why it is that Michelangelo’s work is magnificent, whereas Duchamp’s is “interesting”, at best. By focusing not on the works of art themselves, but rather upon the complex social-cultural context of their creation and presentation, the New Institutional Theory provides fresh, clear and powerful explanations of the very inner workings of Art, writ large. The artists, the public, the issues, the techniques, the bothers and the worries are all illuminated for the reader to gain true insight into the actual logic of Art. This book is intended for all readers, professionals and non-professionals alike.