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Artist-run galleries—A contemporary institutional change in the visual arts


This paper focuses on the contemporary phenomenon of artists who, because of institutional changes in the social organization of the visual arts, become their own gatekeepers by running their own galleries, managing their own exposure and re-establishing direct contact with their audiences and communities. The author contends that the ways in which artists have pursued and organized their own galleries shed light on both the functioning of the established social organization of art and the circumstances that bring about its change. The paper explores the organization, operations and viability of visual artist-managed galleries in the San Francisco and Santa Cruz areas of California as an alternative to the established organization of the art market.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Pacific Sociological Association Meetings in Sacramento, California (April, 1977). This study was made possible by a grant from the Research Committee of the University of California, Santa Cruz. My warmest thanks to Judith Balfe and Gerald Platt for their substantive and editorial assistance and to Jenny Debouzek for her assistance throughout this research.

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Sharon, B. Artist-run galleries—A contemporary institutional change in the visual arts. Qual Sociol 2, 3–28 (1979).

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  • Social Organization
  • Social Psychology
  • Direct Contact
  • Social Issue
  • Institutional Change