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November 16, 2012

Looking at the art world

When Martha Buskirk looks at contemporary art, she sees the forces that shaped it, most of which come from the art world where it appears.

“I’m looking at contemporary art and trying to think about how both its incorporation into museums, and its promotion as part of an art marketplace, changes the nature of art itself,” said Buskirk, a professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art.

In her book “Creative Enterprise: Contemporary Art Between Museum and Marketplace,” published this spring, Buskirk spends a chapter discussing “Yard” by Allan Kaprow, a work that has been displayed “at least 10 times” since 1961.

The installation is a collection of automobile tires, which visitors are free to rearrange as they please, and that Kaprow has also varied over time.

“In 1991, instead of having tires all around the place, they were presented on orderly racks against pink walls with a Fiat parked in front,” Buskirk said.

By changing to reflect Kaprow’s evolving ideas of what art should be, the work embodies the themes of Buskirk’s book.

“The artist is part of a larger set of forces,” she said. “The larger set of forces wind up intersecting with the creation of the work over time.”

Buskirk will lecture on those forces in December, at Art Basel in Miami, which she calls “a huge art market” that is becoming a center of the art world.

Her talk will be on the itinerary of a “Behind the Scenes” expedition — led by Montserrat Gallery director Leonie Bradbury — which is being offered to the public during the college’s winter session.

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