Book Launch: Museums and Wealth, the Politics of Art Collections, Nizan Shaked in conversation with Hailey Loman

Friday, April 15, 7-9 PM

Museums and Wealth: The Politics of Contemporary Art Collections is a critical analysis of contemporary art collections and the value form, showing why the nonprofit system is unfit to administer our common collections, and offering solutions for diversity reform and restructuring.

In the United States, institutions administered by the nonprofit system have an ambiguous status as they are neither entirely private nor fully public. Among nonprofits, the museum is unique as it is the only institution where trustees tend to collect the same objects they hold in “public trust” on behalf of the nation, if not humanity. The public serves as alibi for establishing the symbolic value of art, which sustains its monetary value and its markets.

This structure allows for wealthy individuals at the helm to gain financial benefits from, and ideological control over, what is at its core purpose a public system. The dramatic growth of the art market and the development of financial tools based on art-collateral loans exacerbate the contradiction between the needs of museum leadership versus that of the public. Indeed, the story of private support in the US is a history of racist discrimination, and the common collections reflect this fact.

A history of how private collections were turned public gives context. Since the late Renaissance, private collections legitimized the prince's right to rule, and later, with the great revolutions, display consolidated national identity. But the rise of the American museum reversed this trajectory and re-privatized the public collection. A materialist description of the museum as a model institution of the liberal nation state reveals constellations of imperialist social relations.


Nizan Shaked is author of Museums and Wealth: The Politics of Contemporary Art Collections (Bloomsbury Academic 2022). Her book The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art (Manchester University Press, 2017) was awarded the 2019 Smithsonian American Art Museum Eldredge Prize and a Wyeth Foundation for American Art College Art Association Publication Award in 2015. Shaked teaches contemporary art history, museum and curatorial studies, at California State University Long Beach.

Books will be available to purchase at LACA or online using the promo code: SHAKED22US 
This is an in-person event. 

Watch the video of this conversation HERE