“Intermédiaires et consecration retrospective" Modern Composers and Visual Artists in the US of the 20th and 21st Centuries: The Impact of Intermediary Organizations on Consecration

Laura Braden, TJ Dowd

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“Cultural consecration” occurs when specific artists or artworks are regarded as truly legitimate representations of their field of production, thus deserving particular esteem and honor (Allen & Lincoln 2004; Schmutz, 2005). Whereas cultural valorization is general and pervasive, consecration produces a rupture (Bourdieu 1991): it separates rare great creators or works from the more frequent, but merely good—highlighting those worthy of long-term recognition and respect from those unworthy. However, consecration is not fixed, but rather evolving. Time often shuffles the deck of history: Formerly revered creators are discarded, while those previously overlooked are rediscovered and glorified (Corse & Griffin 1997; Dowd et al. 2002). Those that enjoy retrospective consecration—where creators are selected from history’s scope rather than just the current landscape—can be deemed more legitimate than those who only enjoy contemporary prestige (Allen & Lincoln 2004; Schmutz 2005). This increased legitimacy is based on the assumption that the very best survive the “test of time” (Becker 1984: 365). Because retrospective consecration designates what and who should merit attention and respect, the ability to confer such status is, in actuality, the power to ascribe social value and privilege. Unsurprisingly, then, sociologists have devoted considerable attention to the endurance of artistic reputation (Dowd & Kelly 2012; Lang & Lang 1988); processes of cultural valorization (Corse & Griffin 1997; Tuchman & Fortin 1984); and retrospective consecration (Allen & Lincoln 2004; Schmutz 2005). Such research demonstrates, among other things, that two types of factors shape the consecration process—both in the short and long-term. On the one hand, cultural organizations—like museums and symphony orchestras—are crucial in the consecration process, as they partially base their existence on discernment and maintenance of evaluative distinctions (DiMaggio 2009; Dowd 2011). On the other hand, social characteristics of the creators themselves are implicated in the consecration process—such as gender (Schmutz and Faupel 2010; Tuchman & Fortin 1980) and nationality (Bevers 2005; Corse 1995). Interestingly, scholars often do not consider those broad factors concurrently. Our chapter builds on a recent exception (Braden 2009) that examines the retrospective consecration of modern visual artists, and we extend its approach to another group—modern composers.
Original languageFrench
Title of host publicationLa culture et ses intermédiaires: Dans les arts, le numérique et les industries créatives
EditorsL. Jeanpierre, O. Roueff
Place of PublicationFrance
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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