Entitled: Discriminating Tastes and the Expansion of the Arts

Princeton Univ. Sept. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9780691158914. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780691189840. FINE ARTS
Those interested in the arts may wonder how such a diverse range of practices—from photography and graffiti to graphic novels and even designer toys—came to be considered serious art. Researching the period 1825 through the late 20th century, Lena (arts administration & sociology, Columbia Univ.) investigates key shifts driven by “aesthetic entrepreneurs,” arts administrators, federal and local governments, and the general public in how art is understood and enjoyed in America. The author considers the expansion in the types of cultural works and performing arts that rose in the 20th century from popular status to fine art to be included in museums and venues for performances. She argues that social elites still determine what is considered art today and often embrace popular forms—“highbrow omnivorousness”—redefining these works as high art and adding them to the ever-expanding fine art canon.
VERDICT This scholarly work brings a sociologist’s perspective and rigorous methodology to survey the process of artistic legitimation. Recommended for scholars as well as general readers interested in the topic from an academic viewpoint.
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