Association of Art Historians Annual Conference: But how does it work? Clarifying the Rhetoric Surrounding Social Value in the Arts

10 Apr 2014 – 12 Apr 2014


Travel Information

  • Bus 9,10,52
  • South Kensington/High Street Kensington

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In February 2013 the government launched the Social Value Act '' a new policy requiring public authorities to place social and environmental value above economic agendas. This legislation marks the apex of an increasing emphasis over recent years in the cultural sector, both in the UK and globally, on social inclusion. While art as a tool to promote social inclusion is far from a new phenomenon, today, many museums and galleries stand at the forefront of ever- expanding political and cultural efforts, serving as gatekeepers to individual, community and societal support. Nonetheless, the obscure rhetoric surrounding the language of social value and inclusion '' wellbeing, social justice and sustainability, etc '' has the potential to breed confusion and debate as to how to apply these principles. As Claire Bishop highlights in her recent book, Artificial Hells (2012), is this current situation in the arts a question of ethics or aesthetics? Ultimately, what is social value exactly, how does it work, and how do we measure its success (if at all)? This interdisciplinary session invites scholars, artists, curators, programmers and arts organizations to address questions that surround the social value of art, its relationship to cultural policy, its effect on the role of the art museum and the ambiguities that persist in our understanding of social value and its relationship to art. The session will illuminate the international scope of this debate by including scholarship and practice models from non-British contexts. The format of the day will involve four standard slots in which papers will be delivered, followed by three case studies by practitioners and/or curators, which will constitute the basis for one concluding roundtable discussion.

Convenors of Session: Nicola Mann and Charlotte Bonham-Carter (Richmond, The American International University in London)

Abstracts (max. 250 words) for papers of 25-30 minutes are to be sent to Nicola Mann ( and to Charlotte Bonham-Carter ( by 17 September 2013.