GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
M. Sajid
Title of Paper:
Exploring Artist’s Meaning in the Context of Marketing: The Case of Contemporary Art
Paper Proposal Text :
Exploring Artist’s Meaning in the Context of Marketing: The Case of Contemporary Art

David Hewitt and Sajid Khan

American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

From New York to Beijing, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the global economic downturn, the seemingly irrational but highly lucrative marketing of contemporary art is a phenomenon that baffles many while inspiring a new generation to make a career of art. Echoing these developments, in the last decade the UAE art market has also seen great expansion in the amount of art both produced and sold. Internationally, the attempt to understand the gallery-artist-market relationship has resulted in a number of scholarly publications, but almost no such research has been carried out in relation to the UAE. A review of the literature suggests that art emerges from a complex interplay of: marketing variables and choices; the translation of experiences into visual form that structures meaning; the means by which ideas and intentions are expressed in and across cultures.

The presenters describe an on-going study which investigates the dynamics of the current UAE art market and attempts to uncover the socio/economic impact “recent processes of internationalization and globalization have had on visual culture” and to what extent these processes determine the production of “a new visual identity”. The study assumes the importance of an audience-oriented approach that acknowledges the need for arts organizations to adopt a marketing orientation which facilitates social and economic development (Rentschler, 1999). The study also builds on Fillis’s (2009) argument that art can both uncover new platforms for perceiving the environment and further develop marketing theory.

Our study raises a number of questions in the context of art in UAE, such as: What combination of concept, methods of production and particularly marketing and branding characterizes a successful artist in the UAE? How do artists in the UAE disseminate as well as reflect the cultural meaning of their work? How do they deal with issues of content vs. marketing? To what extent is an artist’s brand bounded by the interplay of choice behavior? The study will explore these research questions using a series of in-depth interviews (25) and focus groups (5) with the UAE’s leading artists, gallery owners, auction house directors, collectors and art journalists/critics.

In particular, adopting the method of Hemming (2008), we will use a series of demographic type questions followed by questions about inspirational information (e.g., personal/educational experience), specific visual/conceptual information (e.g., subject, content, theme – figuration/abstraction), attitude, aesthetic values (e.g., modernism/post modernism, tradition, politics), technical/practice information (e.g., skill, use of technology, work with assistants, artist colleagues), and other factors that influence artistic production (e.g., current global and local developments and activities in the art world).

Overall, the study explores the artist—consumer relationship, and contributes toward developing conceptual models related to production and consumption of visual culture in UAE that can be tested empirically in future studies.


Fillis, I. (2002), “Creative marketing and the art organization what can the artist offer?” International Journal of Non-profit and Voluntary Marketing Sector, Vol.7 (2), pp. 131-146.

Fillis, I. (2009), “An evaluation of artistic influences on marketing theory and
Practice,” Journal of Marketing Intelligence and Planning, Vol. 27(6), pp. 753-774.

Hemming, W.S. (2008), “The information- Seeking behavior of visual artists: a literature review,” Journal of Documentation, Vol. 6 (3), pp. 343-362.

Rentschler, R. (1998), “Museum and performing arts marketing: a climate change”,Journal of Arts Management Law and Society, Vol.28 (1), pp.83-97.