J-Term 2022: Art Markets

Art Historian Cheryl Finley takes students on a journey exploring the production and exchange of works of art.

Walking illuminated by the sunlight speckled floors under the dome of The Louvre Abu Dhabi, students taking the “Art Markets” J-term class begin a three-week journey that sees them learn from the UAE’s biggest museums to its liveliest art districts. 

Taught by Cheryl Finley, associate professor of art history from Cornell University, students will focus on the creation of art markets in the Middle East in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“These site-based and often object-based learning opportunities are key to understanding how the arts ecosystems of each Emirate have given way to one of the most vibrant contemporary art markets in the world today,” said Finley. 

The class explores the production, sale, display and exchange of works of art, and the patrons, artists and collectors who participate in this economic, social, and political form of cultural production and aesthetic valuation. 

Special attention will be paid to the emergence of the contemporary art market in the Middle East via cultural revolution, technological innovation, political conflict, energy markets, and global competition. 

“For example, the burgeoning new museum architecture of Saadiyat Island, the creation of arts districts in Dubai and the influence of the Sharjah Biennial and Sharjah Art Foundation provide access to the work of local and global art and cultural artifacts for residents of the UAE, including providing essential support and training for emerging artists, while also projecting an image to global art markets of the history and futurity of the MENASA arts ecosystem,” she said. 

Global art markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas will be discussed alongside Middle Eastern art fairs, art foundations, artists’ collectives, and museums.

Students will conduct case studies that explore a range of topics including patterns of transportation, exchange and trade; interactions of collectors, critics and curators; contexts of contemporary collections; new museum architecture; auction houses and commercial galleries; and cultural heritage theft and restitution.